Science and Technology News

Monday, May 21, 2018

Maryland Guard, Estonian Service Members Conduct Cyber Exercise


By Army Maj. Kurt Rauschenberg, 58th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade

TARTU, Estonia -- Maryland National Guard cyberwarriors supported their Estonian counterparts during Exercise Hedgehog 2018, also known locally and by NATO as Exercise Siil 2018, held here beginning May 2.

Major activities are being conducted in southeast Estonia and northern Latvia. The purpose of the exercise is to train on territorial defense, both in conventional and asymmetrical warfare.

Guard members from the 175th Wing's Cyber Operations Group from Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Maryland, and their Estonian partners employed the exercise as an opportunity to leverage their joint knowledge and skills from both civilian and military backgrounds.

Cyber Scenarios

They incorporated cyber scenarios that could cause potential threats if it were a real situation.

One of the exercise’s goals was to build cyber awareness with physical objects to test policy and procedures.

The names of the exercise participants are withheld due to security considerations.

"We used a technique known as cyber exploitation to test [the Estonians’] internal cyber awareness," said a Maryland Guard cyberwarfare operator.

Scenarios involving rogue wireless access points, phishing attacks with links to a website, and leaving quick response codes with Siil 18 branding to capture basic information from those connecting were used as means for testing the internal cyber awareness levels of the Estonian military personnel.

There was also removable media loaded with malware, ransomware attacks, and planting cell phones within units to track locations.

"Essentially, they are breaking into your house, but not stealing anything," the Maryland Guard cyberwarfare operator said. "They are leaving a nice little note behind, however, letting them know we were here."

These scenarios mirror real world ways attackers attempt to collect information. Obtaining such information in reality could allow an adversary to gain intelligence of the ongoing military activities and potentially compromise planned missions.

"This is not the first time the 175th COG has trained with the Estonian Defense Forces," the Maryland Guard cyberwarfare operator said. "Our relationship goes back at least nine years, if not longer."

State Partnership Program

Normally, the exercise would focus primarily on air and land operations with little to no cyber-related situations. However, incorporating the cyberspace domain allows Estonia and the Maryland Guard to widen the scope of participation through the National Guard's State Partnership Program.

"This training is so valuable to exercise our shared goals and values," said an Estonian military member. "The everyday tactical and technical efforts put substance to all the cooperation that goes into our established relationship."

The exercise brings together members of the Estonian Defense League, Women's Home Defense League, and regular Defense Force.

Estonian police, border forces and emergency management personnel also participated. With cooperation from 15 NATO allied forces, over 15,000 personnel participated in the exercise. The Michigan and Oklahoma National Guard also participated.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Information Technology Initiatives Must be Tied to DoD’s Mission, Official Says


By Noreen Costello, Defense Information Systems Agency

FORT MEADE, Md -- Dana Deasy, the Defense Department’s chief information officer, spoke to members of the DoD information technology community about the importance of being mission focused and innovative during his remarks at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium in Baltimore May 17.

“When you ask 10 different people in the private sector ‘Why are we here?’ you might get 10 different answers. But here, everyone talks about the mission and how it aligns to the National Defense Strategy,” he said. “Everybody is crystal clear on the focus of the mission.”

Aligning IT Mission With National Defense Strategy

Deasy urged all members of the DoD IT community to get to know the National Defense Strategy in depth, and to make sure what they are doing is aligned.

“Truly understanding what’s said inside that strategy will crystallize what we need to focus on, he said. “The three tenets are lethality, alliances, and reform. … Every conversation I’ve had so far has been: Tell me your part, the role you’re playing in supporting those three tenets.”

The CIO said he will pursue innovative ideas and technologies, but cautioned “innovation” doesn’t always equate to something new.

“People always think when you use the term innovation you’re talking about something that is brand new, leading edge, maybe never been done or we want to be early adopters on,” Deasy said. “But I also always remind people innovation is sometimes taking what you have [and asking], how do you make it better?”

Cyber Innovation, Moving to the Cloud

He is particularly interested in innovation that falls within the areas of cyber: data integration through a variety of methods, tools and techniques, including big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence; a cloud that sits at the foundation and a world-class environment.

Deasy elaborated on the idea of moving to the cloud, which is currently a major initiative within the department.

“It’s really important to understand this is not a case where you’re trying to lift out of your old world and you’re suddenly trying to drop into your new world. But this is the most phenomenal opportunity I think we’ve ever experienced as technical folks … to be able to look at your legacy estate and say, ‘This is a brilliant opportunity to reengineer,’ he said.

Deasy added, “Cloud allows you to do amazing things that you simply haven’t been able to do historically. … It gives us as IT professionals a whole new way to operate our estate and to build the future of how we want IT to run.”

The CIO also emphasized the need to collaborate with industry, academia and other federal partners in all IT endeavors.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my going-on 37 years of being in technology it is that you cannot go after these things alone,” Deasy said.

Autonomous Helicopter Technology Wins Another Major Award


By Sierra Jones, Office of Naval Research

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Howard Hughes Award -- given by the American Helicopter Society -- was presented here May 17 to the Office of Naval Research and Aurora Flight Sciences for their joint work on the Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System, or AACUS.

AACUS enables rotary-wing aircraft to fly completely autonomously even in austere environments.

“The team is honored to be recognized for our work,” said Knox Millsaps, head of Office of Naval Research’s air warfare and weapons department. “But we’ll know if our work has been a real success if it can keep even one more warfighter safe and out of harm’s way during a resupply mission -- that’s our true measure of success.”

Sensors, Software Package

AACUS is a package of sensors and software that can be integrated into rotary-wing aircraft to provide safe, reliable and rapid delivery of cargo to Marines in the field using autonomous capabilities. These capabilities include flight, route planning, obstacle avoidance, landing selection -- even on unprepared fields -- and takeoffs.

AACUS employs an intuitive handheld tablet that allows a Marine in the field to call up needed supplies quickly and easily.

That capability was on display in December 2017 when AACUS successfully completed its final demonstration -- featuring a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter -- at the Urban Training Center at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. A highlight of the demonstration included a Marine requesting an autonomous resupply after only 15 minutes of training.

Revolutionary Technology

“The AACUS technology provides a revolutionary way to resupply our forces in the field,” Millsaps said. “It could simplify the logistics train for supplying critical warfighting cargo to forward-deployed troops, and do this in a more economical manner without placing human pilots at risk in high-threat environments.”

AACUS has won and been nominated for other high-profile awards as well. In addition to receiving the Howard Hughes Award, the technology was a finalist for the recent National Aeronautic Association’s 2017 Robert J. Collier Trophy.

And earlier this month, the program received the Xcellence Award in the category of “Detect and Avoid” from the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International.

AACUS was developed under an Office of Naval Research innovative naval prototype program in partnership with technology company Aurora Flight Sciences. The program is now with the Marine Corps for further experimentation and development.