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Army boosts network security by cutting access points

Jun. 30, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence ()


The Army is consolidating and modernizing its networks to make them more expeditionary and secure as the Army scales down and returns from Afghanistan, the Army chief information officer said.

“I’m convinced that, as we draw down, if we get this network modernized right, it will enable us to be that smaller, better-trained, more capable expeditionary Army,” Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, the Army’s CIO/G-6, said June 27 at an Association of the U.S. Army breakfast in Arlington, Va.

The plan is to ensure every soldier — and the next generation of combat vehicle — is connected. The Army wants to expand the network’s bandwidth, better safeguard it against cyber attacks and provide standardized enterprise services to troops.

As part of that effort, Lawrence said the 101st Airborne Division, of Fort Campbell, Ky., went to Afghanistan with access to the same networks that they had in garrison, and troops from the 10th Mountain Division, of Fort Drum, N.Y., and the 4th Infantry Division, of Fort Carson, Colo., are due to follow.

“If we’re called to go on an operation tonight, we’ll be able to join the joint task force immediately without having to change our identity, our name, our network,” Lawrence said. “We’re going to be able to deploy and will only have to take forward those boots required to fight the fight and reach back and have access to the entire force.”

The commander of the 101st could only take a small number of soldiers to Afghanistan, but needed his intelligence, logistics and medical teams at home station to be connected.

“That’s OK, because we’re going to build one network for post camp and station to that soldier sitting in [Forward Operating Base] Salerno,” she said. “When we first did it, it was challenging because it took 20 to 30 minutes to send an intelligence report, and when you’re in contact, that just doesn’t work. Now that same report arrives in 19 seconds.”

For training, the network can link instructors at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to brigades anywhere in the world, saving time and money, Lawrence said.

Twelve installations are linked via a program that allows them access at home to the same information technology systems and software used on the battlefield. The system provides a standard, simplified connection for operating forces to connect tactical mission command systems to an installation’s secure network, the Army said.

Desk-bound soldiers will eventually see their hard drives disappear as the Army migrates to a cloud environment, and their phones may one day be replaced with headsets that allow them to make voice-over-IP calls, Lawrence said.

As the Army consolidates from more than 400 network access points to 12, Lawrence said she expects cybersecurity to improve.

“Our number-one vulnerability is the number of access points into our network,” she said. “We’re an absolute sieve.”

Lawrence said the Army must also be conscious of the “insider threat.”

“How do we address that, how do we see them; we’ve got to be able to see one network,” she said. “We can only be as secure as the weakest link, and that’s what we’re going after.”

The Army is adding 13 cyber protection detachments next year; their training is underway at Fort Gordon, Ga. She said the units, made up of soldiers and civilians, would assess information assurance postures, conduct inspections and perform “active hunting on the network, to see who’s there, doing what.”

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