Cybersecurity

The Navy's cyber awakening

The Navy Department has laid out a strategy that clearly identifies cyberspace as a warfighting domain. The strategy is designed to better assess cyber risks across the service in the wake of a high-profile breach of its computers last year.

"Cyber and IT [are] now a commander's business," declared Matthew Swartz, a member of the department's Senior Executive Service who is helping lead a yearlong task force to implement the new strategy.

The main purpose of Task Force Cyber Awakening, which was explained in detail to reporters during an Oct. 31 roundtable, is to give leaders a clearer picture of how the cybersecurity postures of the service's many components, from the Naval Sea Systems Command to the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, stack up.

Today it might take the Navy days or weeks to assess the cybersecurity strength of a given program, Swartz said. The goal is to dramatically reduce that time. Cyber breaches on any network are inevitable, he added. But awareness of vulnerabilities can be much improved.

In developing the new strategy, leaders realized there wasn't a "unifying front" for collecting information on cyber vulnerabilities across the service, Swartz said.

One of the catalysts for the new strategy was the breach last year, reportedly by Iranian hackers, of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, the service's massive internal computer network.

The NMCI intrusion was "part of the foundation that led to this task force" because it drove home how critically reliant the Navy Department is on an internal network for enterprisewide operations, Swartz said.

The task force, led by Vice Adm. Ted Branch, deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance, has four subgroups that cover issues such as interoperability and resiliency. One group is charged with delivering a cyber resiliency plan for the Navy in November, which the department will continue to refine. The task force will finish its work in August 2015 and, if things go according to plan, will leave in its wake an "enduring capability that we organize around," Swartz said.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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