Cybersecurity

Pentagon wraps up classified study of enterprise cyber defense

Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

Pentagon officials have completed a classified assessment of the effectiveness of enterprise cybersecurity tools at defense agencies, and the assessors are sharing lessons with the military services, according to an official at the Defense Information Systems Agency.

"We're looking at the existing tools -- whether it's a sensor that's at the boundary or it's an endpoint or it's a web content-filtering capability," said John Hickey, a cybersecurity risk management executive at DISA. "And we look at those different tools, and we say, 'What is the threat that they're defeating, and what is the value of that threat?'"

Officials at DISA, the Defense Department CIO's office and the National Security Agency conducted the classified assessment, which he described as an initial step in making sure defense officials weren't getting a "stale" view of their networks. The military services will follow suit with their own assessments of enterprise cybersecurity tools, added Hickey, who spoke to reporters after his Jan. 12 appearance at an event hosted by AFCEA's Washington chapter.

He was mum on the details of the classified report but described it as thorough and covering myriad vulnerabilities -- from insider threats to nation-state capabilities. He said DOD officials will use the report to determine what cybersecurity tools to invest in.

The classified assessment is part of a broader push by defense officials to have a clearer sense of what's working and what isn't when it comes to cybersecurity. Chief among the efforts is a cybersecurity scorecard that grades various agencies on their IT security practices. It is now being produced on a monthly basis for Defense Secretary Ash Carter's review.

The scorecard is "still a work in progress," Hickey said at the event, adding that too much of the reporting on security practices is done manually when that time could be better spent patching vulnerabilities.

DISA is also preparing to navigate a transition period in perhaps its biggest enterprise security project, the Joint Regional Security Stacks. Officials are holding a week-long "JRSS summit" with the military services to define the next stages of the project, said Alfred Rivera, director of DISA's Development and Business Center.

He added that part of the discussion will focus on the operational aspect of the stacks, which have been described as a firewall on steroids. The goal is to build a better understanding between DISA and the military's network operations centers, he said.

Also at the AFCEA event, DISA CTO David Mihelcic pushed back gently on a recent DOD inspector general report that criticized officials for not having a standard definition of cloud computing. The report concluded that "DOD cannot determine whether it achieves actual cost savings or benefits from adopting cloud-computing services."

Some definitions of cloud computing "don't actually always make sense in the DOD context," Mihelcic said. "We may want to use cloud-like technologies, but we may want to buy them in a slightly more dedicated fashion to ensure quality of service."

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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