Terror Computer Camp

Cyberterrorism remains a threat to defense systems as terror groups and hostile governments become technologically advanced. At a July 24 meeting of the House Armed Services Committee's Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, panelists testified about vulnerabilities in the Defense Department's networks.

The four panelists were information assurance experts from DOD, the General Accounting Office, Microsoft Corp. and Purdue University.

Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) expressed his concern about groups like al Qaeda running terrorist computer training camps.

"Have we done an analysis of terrorists training in cyberterrorism?" he asked. "Are there terrorist training camps for computer geeks?"

Robert Lentz, DOD's director of information assurance, said that topic would be better addressed in a classified setting.

Eugene Spafford, a professor at Purdue University, satisfied Meehan's curiosity when he said that virtually anyone with an Internet connection can get the information necessary to launch a successful cyberattack on virtually any computer network.

"With bulletin boards and discussion lists...anyone can learn sophisticated attack methodologies," he said. "There is a virtual worldwide training camp going on on a continual basis."

Cyber Grim Reaper!

If the committee has a harbinger of death and destruction, it is Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.).

At the House subcommittee meeting, Bartlett grilled the four witnesses on "what-if" scenarios.

What would we do, Bartlett asked, if an extra-atmospheric nuclear device detonates and destroys most of our communications satellites in space? Or what if an enemy places a dormant virus inside the computer systems of U.S. first responders, and it activates during a terrorist attack and denies us our assets when we most need them?

Bartlett's doomsday scenarios appeared to fluster the panelists. They tried to explain that some contingencies were being considered, while others were too unlikely or too expensive to pursue.

But Bartlett was relentless and finally got to the issue that keeps him up at night: "Is anyone looking at a plan of what we would do if computers go away and don't come back?"

Scott Charney, Microsoft's chief security strategist, had a one-word response: "No."

Swarming UAVs

Scientists and defense strategists have long been fascinated with how the swarming techniques of insects could be applied to the battlefield, and now DOD will pay to study them.

DOD will soon launch an analysis of how swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles and other unmanned systems could be used in combat.

John Stenbit, assistant secretary of Defense for networks and information integration, agreed to fund a swarming analysis that will start in October and be conducted at the Joint C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) Decision Support Center in Arlington, Va.

Working with an estimated $1 million to start, the analysis team will include representatives from Stenbit's office, Joint Forces Command, the Joint Staff, and the Army Space and Missile Defense Laboratory, a Joint Forces Command spokesman said.

In addition to the swarm analysis, Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory and the Altarum Institute will conduct a separate experiment to compare various swarm methods with traditional approaches of searching for ground targets.

Outsourcing at the Corps

After years spent convincing his superiors to adopt an enterprise approach by using contractors to run certain technology services, the chief information officer for the Army Corps of Engineers is getting his chance to prove its merits.

Wil Berrios said his four years of preaching the virtues of IT outsourcing paid off recently when the deputy commanding general of the corps told him to look into it.

"He said it makes sense, especially with the fiscal challenges we're facing," Berrios told the Interceptor, following his July 24 presentation at Federal Sources Inc.'s executive breakfast in McLean, Va.

Contractors already handle about 60 percent of the $500 million in IT services used by the corps, and the total rises to 80 percent by including the group's network backbone.

But those deals have all been arranged on a case-by-case basis. Berrios wants the corps to embrace enterprise management of outsourcing.

Corps officials have already started: After submitting 11 business cases to the Office of Management and Budget last year, the corps submitted seven this year, Berrios said. In those seven cases, the corps included about 92 percent of its IT projects, he said. n

Intercept something? Send it to [email protected].


  • Defense
    Soldiers from the Old Guard test the second iteration of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) capability set during an exercise at Fort Belvoir, VA in Fall 2019. Photo by Courtney Bacon

    IVAS and the future of defense acquisition

    The Army’s Integrated Visual Augmentation System has been in the works for years, but the potentially multibillion deal could mark a paradigm shift in how the Defense Department buys and leverages technology.

  • Cybersecurity
    Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lora Ratliff)

    Mayorkas announces cyber 'sprints' on ransomware, ICS, workforce

    The Homeland Security secretary announced a series of focused efforts to address issues around ransomware, critical infrastructure and the agency's workforce that will all be launched in the coming weeks.

Stay Connected