All-seeing security program spreading throughout DOD

Record software deployment gives cyber command omniscient view

The implementation of a $9.7 million agreement with McAfee and Northrop Grumman to secure 5 million desktop and notebook computers and servers is bolstering military cybersecurity efforts via the host-based security system (HBSS) rolled out last month.

The program helps to secure DOD’s Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNet), in addition to its Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNet), for which HBSS originally was rolled out through the Air Force Network-Centric Solutions contract last year.

Officials already are touting the benefits of the deal.

“HBSS is the new big thing. We are already deploying it on all our desktops,” said Dave Wennergren, the Defense Department's deputy chief information officer.

“The program is giving cyber command a top-level view,” providing critical information to organizations such as the newly created 24th Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, which is responsible for Air Force cyber operations, said Tom Conway, director for federal business development at McAfee.

Conway said the HBSS deployment marks the largest single software mandate for DOD, security or otherwise.

The software is built on McAfee’s Host Intrusion Prevention Systems (HIPS) signature and behavioral protection, and a system firewall. HBSS also employs McAfee’s ePolicy Orchestrator management framework, a dedicated security management console.

HBSS "is the last line of defense, but also the first — it’s 360-degree protection, even from inside threats. It offers better visibility into what the network looks like and how it behaves,” Conway said.

According to Herb Galindo, department manager for the central region at Northrop Grumman Information Systems, HBSS also is supporting a Defense Information Systems Agency drive for capabilities that collect and correlate alarms as cyberattacks occur.

The HBSS program also reaches into outside agencies, including civilian agencies such as the Coast Guard, and the other branches of the military are beginning to implement the security standard as well, though officials say the Air Force has been the first military organization to make major strides with the software.

“The Air Force is ahead of the pack across DOD in implementing HBSS,” said Col. Russ Fellers, deputy director of the Air Force 753rd Electronics Systems Group, which focuses on net-centric and command and control capabilities for the Air Force.

“HBSS is a game-changer in the sense of virus protection at the desktop level, [preventing viruses or malware from] spreading into the network,” Fellers said. “The magnitude is enormous.”

Beyond the cyber realm, the HBSS program also is having an effect on the ground, and as far away as Afghanistan. “This provides system administrators improved situational awareness and ensures capabilities to the warfighter,” Galindo said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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