In order to ensure that we remain a trusted institution with the American public that we serve, the [military] is evaluating ways to further develop our professional military force, and ensure that an uncompromising culture of accountability exists at every level of command. I believe we are making a difference. We must.

As Secretary of Defense Hagel said earlier this year, “Ethics and character are absolute values that we cannot take for granted. They must be constantly reinforced.”

 

-Secretary of the Army John McHugh


Our Data is Not Secure

and Our data is not secure. That is the attitude you should take when interacting with providers online or when providing data at a point of sale. We must take the position that important personal data will be compromised at some point and we should therefore be prepared to enact a plan to reduce our vulnerabilities from its loss. According to the 2015 Verizon data breach report, there were over 2100 confirmed data breaches (pg5). These malicious attacks are conducted against the full range of providers that we all interact with, to include health insurers, financial institutions, educational institutions, and specialty services. There is an underground economy that supports the theft and re-sale of records in bulk. In our view, data compromise is now pervasive and we are collectively at increasing risk from multiple exposures being found in several different data sets. Consider some of the more high profile data breaches this year; Snapchat 4.5 million names and phone numbers, eBay database of 145 million users compromised, Sony Pictures, OPM databases containing 22 million detailed records, Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield 10 million records of PII, Scottrade 4.5 million records. T-Mobile/Experian 15 million records, UCLA Health 4.5 million records, Army National Guard, 850,000 records. The lists go on and on. Think about all the business that we do online, large and small. We don’t even hear about all the breaches that happen on a continuous basis. The Identity Theft Resource Center is (www.idtheftcenter.org) just one source listing the exhaustive compilation of these breaches.   According to the Ponemon Institute, data breaches cost our economy $1.377 billion with an average cost of... read more

Recruiting Cyber Warriors: Let’s Not Rush to Failure

I have sat through many briefings and discussions on how the Army is short of Cyber warriors and how it will take extraordinary incentives and methods to fill the ranks. There are committees studying this issue and lots of discussion occurring. All of it is well intentioned and motivated by the perception of being behind schedule. However, I think some tactical patience is required and a pause taken to think critically about this issue before we make hasty decisions we may regret. One way to view the problem is to break it into two issues. The first issue is filling the cyber force quickly to get Soldiers and civilians into the current fight. The second issue is the long term recruiting and retention of cyber warriors. The first problem is immediate and no amount of theorizing and planning will make it go away more rapidly. Personnel will be thrust into the gap and hastily trained using adhoc methods yet the line will hold until the cavalry arrives. The second problem is no less difficult but has longer lasting impact and therefore requires more study and detailed analysis. To use a maneuver analogy, waiting for the smoke screen to build before charging into the breach is almost always a prudent choice. A central point made by many in the recruiting/retention discussion regarding the second issue is that there are not enough Soldiers and civilians in the Army with the requisite training and knowledge to fill the force. This point is then used to justify the use of extreme recruiting methods such as lowering physical standards and modifying appearance regulations. Though... read more

An Emotional Response to Being One of the First Cadets to Branch Cyber

I have been asked multiple times what my emotions were the night I learned that I would be branching cyber. The night was like any other branch night at West Point with all of the First Class cadets anxiously awaiting their fate as army officers. The only difference with this branch night as opposed to the previous decades of them was the inclusion of the new branch, Cyber, to the list of possibilities. I knew going into this night that there were roughly forty to fifty cadets that were competing for Army Cyber slots. All of us had put in work through a selection process known as the Cyber Leader Development Program in which our talents, experiences and skills were assessed by a mentor. I thought my chances were decent because I had put hours into my application packet and had done everything I had been asked to do. I knew I would branch either Army Signal or Army Cyber. My grandpa had been an officer in the Army Signal Corps so I had a historical connection to Army Signal, but my hope and dream was to branch Army Cyber. As the night progressed we were finally given our envelopes with our branch inside and the first thing every firstie did was feel the envelope to figure out what branch they had gotten. I can say with complete honesty that I had no idea what mine was. We then waved the envelopes above our heads, as per tradition, and awaited the order to open our branches. When the order came I ripped open the envelope and confirmed my hopes... read more

Tinker Maker Solder Try: Promoting a Culture of Innovation in the Cyber Branch

Tinker As a child, I loved when birthday time came around. Not only mine, mind you – but also my brother’s. Whenever he received a shiny new radio-controlled car, it meant an afternoon full of disassembly and exploration was in my future. I took a certain delight in tinkering, hacking, and repurposing all kinds of materials, often to the chagrin of my younger sibling. In the same way that my childhood hero, Angus MacGyver, saw the ordinary paperclip as the life-saving ingredient to a just-in-time solution, I envisioned the fantastic lives that regular household materials could live. This insatiable hunger to find out what’s inside has undoubtedly driven me to my current career path as a Cyber Officer. While there was no path becoming a Cyber Officer when I first joined the military, I believe my interests in technical exploration positioned me well to join the Army’s newest branch. While the Army is placing significant resources into growing Cyber-related career fields by refining doctrine and funding excellent training opportunities, it’s also important for the service and its prospective technical leaders to leverage the well-established community of hobbyists known as makers. According to Make Magazine: Many makers are hobbyists, enthusiasts or students (amateurs!)–but they are also a wellspring of innovation, creating new products and producing value in the community. Some makers do become entrepreneurs and start companies. These two communities, cyber professionals and makers, value many of the same skills and attributes. In fact, Cyber Officers may find that participation in the maker movement can bring significant benefit in providing an enjoyable outlet that reinforces technical fundamentals. Maker Many accomplished crafters, musicians,... read more

Broadening Opportunities for Cyber Officers

and In a recent trip to Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, members of the Army Cyber Institute (ACI) visited the Communication-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) of the US Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM). Led by Director Henry Muller’s, CERDEC’s six directorates support its mission to develop engineering technology solutions for America’s Soldiers. On this particular visit, the ACI met with Mr. Kevin Boyle, Chief Technology Officer of the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate (I2WD) and Dr. Paul Zablocky, Director of the Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate (STCD).  The visit included not only command briefs from senior leaders of their respective organizations, but also tours of several of CERDEC’s labs and facilities. The ACI discovered some great opportunities for collaboration with these very talented Civilian Engineers, Scientists and Technicians. The opportunity for short- and long-term collaboration is ideal as a broadening assignment for our new 17 series Cyber Branch Officers (Cyber Officers).  There are several advantages for the Cyber Mission Force, RDECOM and the officer himself in such an assignment.  In both the I2WD and STCD organizations, there exists a cyberspace operations section supported by world-class facilities and staffed by civilian experts.  Cyber Officers would serve in an environment in which their skills in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics discipline would improve with exposure to cutting edge technology and modern techniques.  Concurrently, these officers are empowered by providing critical information about usage and implementation in operations that materiel developers can use to improve their products.  These invaluable contributions will have a direct impact on the effectiveness of the Cyber Mission Forces and help improve the communications and information... read more