Cybersecurity is one of the many important aspects of our national defense strategy, especially for the U.S. Space Command and Air Force. Cyberspace, the sixth warfighting domain, is a top priority for the military, as threats (state-sponsored and otherwise) continue to hinder data security and mission delivery. At the recent Rocky Mountain CyberSpace Symposium, experts from the industry and the Department of Defense (DoD) came together to explore the challenges facing our cyberspace and possible solutions powered by IT modernization.
According to a recent Comparitech study, the U.S. is only the 17th most “cyber-secure” country, falling far behind Denmark and Sweden due to increasing malware attacks and faulty cyber readiness. The DoD and industry leaders recognize these trends, and they plan to secure U.S. data with innovative cyber strategies explored at the symposium.
For the U.S. Space Command, this means creating a defensive and—when necessary—offensive strategy to combat threats on the military’s networks. According to Brig. Gen. Joseph Matos with the U.S. Space Command, space is no longer an uncontested domain, and it needs to be treated as such. “We see [our adversaries] gathering intelligence on us and, in some cases, infiltrating our networks in order to exfiltrate that to use against us,” he explained. “The threat goes beyond our systems to our critical infrastructure, such as electricity, water, and other areas we rely upon to conduct defense operations in space. We need to be prepared to actively operate, defend, and—in some cases—use offensive cyber to conduct our space operations.”
The U.S. Space Command is responsible for satellite communications, the Global Positioning System (GPS), and surveillance—all digital combat capabilities requiring secured data and networks. “The challenge in many cases isn’t whether any individual tool is secure or not. It’s that we live in a connected world in which the bad actors are moving much faster than ever before,” said Sandy Orlando, senior vice president of products for SolarWinds® in a recent interview with Government Technology Insider.
As the military adopts new technologies and continues to modernize, these evolving bad actors will influence cyber strategy. IT modernization, the key to the Air Force’s strategy, is underway for over 700,000 Air Force personnel. During the conference, Maj. Gen. Kevin Kennedy, USAF, assistant deputy chief information officer and assistant deputy chief of staff for Cyber Effects Operations, said digital transformation is a vital effort for the military.
“The perception is that we’re a world-class air force, which is true, with the greatest air and space force ever fielded, and it’s not even close,” he said. “But that perception is cut away when you join this world-class force and you have the sense that your technology, your information technologies, aren’t supporting you in a way that you know is possible as an airman. And that’s what we’re going to break through here.”
The Air Force will be leveraging the cloud to deliver better technology to its members. This technology will replace legacy systems, allow for application migration, and—most importantly—protect networks and data. “Beginning these modernization efforts in earnest allows the team to take step one: technical discovery,” said Patrick Hubbard, Head Geek™ for SolarWinds. “Whether it’s the proverbial deconstruction of monolithic applications to cloud-native services or simply adopting a better set of technologies and methodologies, the chance to get hands-on is how IT improves overall quality of service for delivered applications.”
The Air Force, along with other branches of the DoD, is looking to cloud and IT modernization to bolster cybersecurity. “We are pushing information to the cloud so it is exposable, shareable, and discoverable, to enable our artificial intelligence, machine learning, and autonomy journey,” said Kennedy. “If we don’t put it in a place that’s exposable, it’s stale. If you don’t have the most recent data that you are doing better than before with your algorithms and assessments of where you want to go based on information, you’re still not as good as you could be.”
Learn more with the SolarWinds Public Sector Cybersecurity Survey Report.