Forward Observer

During his speech at LandWarNet 2008 in August, Gen. Kevin Chilton said the way the Defense Department had been defending its networks — and the Unclassified but Sensitive IP Router Network (NIPRnet) in particular — is the equivalent of playing whack-a-mole. “It’s not a good way to prepare to fight [in a wartime environment]. We black list…but some smart young person will easily get around it.”

Chilton said he believes white listing is the answer. As Network Enterprise Technology Command commanding general Brig. Gen. Susan Lawrence advocated in a presentation at LandWarNet, restricting Internet access from NIPRnet to a set of approved Web sites is the best way to secure the network from malware, Chilton said. But, he added, “it’s going to take a lot of people saying ‘Yes, that’s the right approach’ to make it work.”

In a press meeting after his presentation, Chilton said he believes white listing is an achievable approach. “I think we’re going to mature to that point. If the attacks get intolerable, the other extreme is to just disconnect from the Internet. And I don’t think that’s the answer because there are essential connections that we need to do. Even if they are unclassified, we need them to do our business.”

DOD must overcome significant cultural resistance to white listing, Chilton said, because there’s a morale issue involved. During his speech, Chilton said the peak traffic on DOD networks was during March Madness, when DOD personnel watch streaming video of the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament.

Chilton said a solution could be to install an Internet café at some commands for nonbusiness activity or have separate Internet-only systems — physically separating NIPRnet systems from those that are regularly exposed to Internet threats.

As Rear Adm. Elizabeth Hight spoke at the LandWarNet 2008 conference, rumors circulated about who will become the Defense Information Systems Agency’s next director. The consensus appears to be that the job will go to Maj. Gen. William Lord, commander of the Air Force’s provisional Cyber Command and former director of information, services and integration at the Air Force Office of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer.

Hight’s appointment to the position was derailed in the Senate because of concerns about a conflict of interest related to her husband’s employment by defense contractor Northrop Grumman. She avoided speaking about the issue in her LandWarNet speech, focusing instead on the need for a joint vision of the warfighting enterprise and optimizing networks and systems across the services. She called on the Army’s Signal Corps to lead the optimization efforts.

“I think the Signal Corps is the best-organized group of information professionals in the DOD,” she said.

Noah Shachtman, of Wired’s “Danger Room” blog, reports that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding research by a California lab that is creating a “brain on a chip” that could mimic the “’function, size and power consumption of a cat’s cortex sometime in the next decade.”

The company involved, HRL Laboratories, of Malibu, Calif., quickly withdrew the press release — but not before bloggers pounced on it — because the deal is not final.

HRL, a joint venture of General Motors and Boeing, plans to create a microelectronic fabric that mimics synapses and neurons. The company intends to demonstrate that the chip can replicate lower brain functions and learn by interacting with its environment.

About the Author

Sean Gallagher is senior contributing editor for Defense Systems.

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