If Cybersecurity is the “Biggest Threat” to Western Powers, Why is there NO Cybersecurity Zone at DSEI 2019?

Over 35,000 people will stroll the aisles at DSEI this year. They expect exhibitors, more than 1,600 of them, to amaze with new, innovative solutions for the greatest problems in defence. The world’s biggest defence contractors and service providers will be there demonstrating their latest and most impressive technologies and solutions. 

Thought leadership? DSEI will host over 300 speakers that are all government leaders or experts in the defence industry. 

As far as defence conferences go, DSEI is the pinnacle. 

It’s where participants from more than 50 countries go to network, share knowledge, and influence the technologies and ideas that will lead defence strategies around the world. 

But even with all of this influence, and all of this government and industry genius, DSEI represents a major shortcoming of the defence industry. The industry fails to identify the common issue amongst various sectors of defence, and DSEI embodies that flaw.  

It misses the mark in providing the real solution. 

The conference is segmented into five domain-focused Zones; Aerospace, Land, Naval, Security, and Joint. Each Zone represents a major part of defence operations within government and contracting industries and serves as its own micro-conference and trade show. 

DSEI doesn’t create a hierarchy of importance for the Zones and presents each one as an equal partner in defence strategies… as though their challenges are of equal importance to larger government and military objectives.

But is that true?

Are all Zones created equal? Should conference-goers and participants view the problems and solutions between Zones through the same lens?

Let’s explore.

DSEI Zones

Aerospace

While aerospace typically includes all things involving flying in Earth’s atmosphere and through space, the DSEI Aerospace Zone includes technologies focusing on fixed, rotary wing, and unmanned aircraft in addition to a newly formed Space Hub. 

The Space Hub is a direct response to an increased interest in space for military operations throughout the world. In fact, the United States just launched Space Command, or SPACECOM, as its newest combatant command. 

Space operations in the United Kingdom have also increased significantly in recent years, contributing to a 4% increase in overall defence and military spending.  

Much of space operations is tied to satellite communications and surveillance for militaries. It serves as a key Command and Control (C2) component and is directly tied to more traditional aerospace operations. 

In the aerospace domain, C2, situational awareness, and communication are frequently-discussed pain points. As such, several industry and government experts are devoting their DSEI presentations to those implications and solutions. 

How do we navigate contested space environments? How do we increase combat preparedness for an Air Force?

The answers to these questions are key to current and future national defences – and DSEI aims to tackle them.

Land

While Aerospace is arguably DSEI’s fastest growing Zone, the Land Zone is already king in terms of size. 

This Zone is all about displaying the latest in land force developments allowing defence industry partners to better align their businesses with the needs of the British Army and other nation-state militaries. 

And those developments and innovations include all the things you would think about when considering a land military force: vehicles, artillery, armour, explosives, and other weapons systems. Impressively, the Land Zone also focuses on the intangibles of ground defence, such as intelligence gathering and logistics.  

The tangibles and intangibles of land defence are inextricably joined. You need the likes of intelligence to know when to expect an attack and how to best counter. Logistics is essential for executing a response. And, of course, you can’t win an engagement of any kind without vehicles, weapons, and armour.

When you put all of these elements together, land operations become intricate and complicated, lending to a list of opportunities for improvement. Among them, the ability to keep up with adversary actions and intentions – knowing a strike will happen in advance – is the most important. 

Being able to maintain a competitive edge on information-gathering and situational awareness is a perpetual push in defence, and one that many experts and innovators will address at DSEI.

Naval

At most conferences with a naval defence component, participants can expect to see virtual simulations, animated presentations, and maybe model recreations of naval vessels and maritime technology.

But DSEI is the pinnacle, remember?

The Naval Zone literally brings the sea to the conference with ships docked on the Thames, giving participants the opportunity to experience waterborne demonstrations and interactive presentations. 

And while it is visually awe-inspiring, the real purpose behind this display is to address prevalent challenges with naval forces. The need to detect and respond to evolving asymmetric threats is chief amongst those challenges.  

As we become more technologically advanced, so do our adversaries. Keeping up with the growing and changing methods for naval disruption is essential. 

Security

The Security Zone is dedicated to the technologies and strategies focused on countering priority threats, such as cyberwarfare and hybrid warfare. 

This Zone aims to demystify operational grey zones characterized by increasingly sophisticated threats from nation-state and non-state threat actors. In doing so, exhibitors and experts will further contextualize this complicated area of defence and seek to provide solutions. 

In an effort to dissect the issues surrounding the Security Zone even farther, DSEI is also unveiling the Cyber Hub this year. 

The introduction of the Cyber Hub is a direct result of the increasing prevalence of cyberattacks in defence and government operations. And while mitigating and appropriately countering those attacks are becoming cornerstones of national security, they become more difficult to reach as threat actors become more sophisticated.   

And that’s where the experts at DSEI aim to provide solution sets. How do we identify and address the more obscure elements of war that directly affect national defence?

Joint

The Joint Zone is effectively the catchall for defence elements that don’t quite fit in the other Zones. It includes three hubs; Communication, Medical, and Innovation. 

Within those hubs, attendees can expect to find exhibits in the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (C4ISTAR); Electronic Warfare; and Medical sectors. 

With a wide range of sectors comes a wide range of problems and solutions. But in general, the big questions surrounding the Joint Zone embody the future of communication, medicine, and innovation from a defence standpoint.  And, as is the challenge with many Zones, experts here will deliver ideas on the implications of a changing defence environment and how to remain cutting edge.   

DSEI Zone Hierarchy

It’s clear that each Zone is a necessary component of defence strategy. It’s obvious that each Zone has key challenges that deserve thoughtful and immediate resolution for continued and further military strength.

But should we prioritize them all equally?

No.

While the Zones may not seem to relate directly to one another, they are all bound by a single, pervasive challenge. This challenge exists in every facet of national security and, therefore, must be considered in every part of defence. 

So, what is the common thread that binds all DSEI Zones together? What’s the central theme that is completely tied to the success of any defence strategy?

Cybersecurity.

Though DSEI illustrates all Zones in a linear fashion, equating their importance, challenges, and solution in the larger defence arena, security (and in turn cybersecurity) should stand out.

To illustrate a more accurate picture of the actual situation, maybe DSEI’s Zone graphic should look more like this:

Cybersecurity

Of course, there are those who will try to dispute cybersecurity as the central theme amongst all facets of defence. But consider this: which defence process exist without connected technologies? 

Even if ground troops aren’t checking their email during a mission, certainly the planning process for the mission involves interconnectivity. The intelligence-gathering, storage, and transmittal was done while at risk of cyberattack. So, even when a front-line execution doesn’t seem to be susceptible to cyber, it is. 

DSEI speaker Ruchi Aggarwal also acknowledges this fact.

“Virtually every conceivable industry is being impacted by the disruptive power of technology, which has been quietly ushering in the fourth industrial revolution across the globe.”

Every industry is impacted by technology.

The fourth industrial revolution that Aggarwal mentions largely refers to disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), and artificial intelligence (AI), majorly impacting day-to-day life. And cybersecurity is a natural byproduct of this continual revolution. Just as these technologies are becoming a greater part of everything we do, so is the need to secure them and the communication around them. 

But even in recognizing the importance of cybersecurity in defence, there may be a missed opportunity to identify a real solution in DSEI’s Security Zone.

Defending Defence

Through the Security Zone, this year’s DSEI conference will pose several questions and problems related to cybersecurity.

Joseph Rooke of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence will ask, “How is the cyber threat landscape evolving alongside geopolitics?”

In exploring this question, he’ll address some necessary truths. 

1) Nation-state and non-state threat actors will increasingly use cyberspace to further their position

2) This includes targeting national infrastructure and manipulating elections as a means to an end

3) Our most severe and likely threats are increasingly cyber 

Additionally, he should point out that this issue can’t fall on the security community alone to solve. Industry and government leaders of all sectors must recognize the real threats of cyberspace and understand how to combat them.

Cybersecurity isn’t just a function of the Security Zone. It’s cross functional and has a place in every sector of each vertical within defence.  

Expert Panel

Experts from BlueVector, Ministry of Defence UK, and Leidos will ask:

1) “What key risk areas drive your cyber defence strategy?” 

2) “How do you adapt your cyber defence strategy to the evolving threat landscape?”

3) “How can industry and government collaborate together to mitigate cyber threats to military capability?” 

4) “What example of best practice would you cite?” 

5) “What innovation in cyber security has most excited you this year?”

And while that list of questions seems exhaustive, for the strongest defence, the answer to each of those questions should be rooted in a key foundational cybersecurity issue: communications security.

Effective and secure communication is necessary for any successful defence strategy. Governments must be able to communicate amongst agencies, allies, and suppliers. Industry partners must provide effective and secure communication to their government clients.

Without communication, there is no command or control. It’s the most basic element in strategy and tactics. 

It’s also the most likely target and entry point of a successful cyberattack. 

We have to communicate. We know that more than 90% of successful cyberattacks start at the communications level. 

The takeaway: there must be a focus on securing  defence communications.

And DSEI is missing this opportunity if the experts don’t focus on basic communication security in response to those posed questions.

Really, the answers should look something like this:

1) “What key risk areas drive your cyber defence strategy?” 

Communications through IoT devices that are necessary for daily operations, strategic planning, and execution. These technologies are necessary for speed and efficiency in communication, but also pose large security risks to defence. 

2) “How do you adapt your cyber defence strategy to the evolving threat landscape?”

Finding truly secure communication mediums that every team member can use correctly and easily is the first step in adapting to the most prevalent and likely threats. 

3) “How can industry and government collaborate together to mitigate cyber threats to military capability?” 

Industry and government must work as partners on security. Finding solutions that keep industry systems and information safe is just as important as the solutions the government itself uses. An attack on a government partner could give direct access to the government. All parties must be on the same page in securing even the most basic communications.

4) “What example of best practice would you cite?” 

Securing all electronic communications, file transfers, and electronic storage locations. Security isn’t a function of just the security team. Each member in the organization must be actively involved and understand their role in secure communications and how to effectively contribute.

5) “What innovation in cyber security has most excited you this year?”

HighSide

DSEI Needs HighSide

HighSide is the most secure unified communications and file sharing platform available to the government, military, and defence industry.

Its patent-pending security technology is designed for government and industry use and is the first 100% end-to-end encrypted and authenticated message and file sharing platform for defence teams. 

It enables communication and work collaboration within sections and across departments, allowing segmenting of conversations by team, project, unit, mission, or other faction. It also mimics face to face communication allowing contributors to enter and leave conversation as necessary, instead of being forced to stay on irrelevant email chains that increase chances for data exposure. 

With HighSide, pre-set teams can share and store files securely, while completely avoiding the risk of data exposure through cyberattack. 

In fact, HighSide allows governments and industry partners to completely avoid several attack patterns associated with basic communications.

Attack patterns avoided with HighSide:

1) Phishing/Spear Phishing

2) Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Attacks

3) Credential Stealing

4) Malicious Insiders

5) Spoofing

6) Email Bomb

7) Scripting

8) Malware Injection

How? 

There are some cyber schools of thought that argue against the idea of avoidance. They believe that there is no way to avoid an attack and, no matter which mitigation methods you use, you will get hacked. 

HighSide disproves that theory amongst common communications attacks.

It’s true that end-to-end encryption completely eliminates (MITM) attacks. Additionally, HighSide’s mobile device management (MDM) functionality stops mass data breaches. 

Usernames and passwords? HighSide doesn’t use them, so threat actors can’t steal them. 

And insider threats are mitigated through HighSide’s geographic location restrictions and authority permission controls. 

HighSide was not designed as a security team tool. It’s a secure communication and work collaboration tool that is easy enough for the least technical team member to use correctly.  

Unlike too many defence solutions, we didn’t try to fit security into HighSide.

Instead, security is the core pillar of HighSide.

Our encryption and security protocols mean that even if hackers breach the HighSide servers, they won’t be able to decrypt any data sent through the platform. 

The keys are not stored on the servers. The HighSide team doesn’t even have access to them. 

The need for HighSide permeates throughout the DSEI Zones. 

Government and industry need to work as efficiently as possible without the risk of cyberattacks in their communication’s layer. HighSide enables secure communication while in garrison, the field, deployed environments, or in the middle of night while wearing pajamas

Remember, cyberattacks are a part of the technological age. They’re not going anywhere. Cybersecurity is the glue that holds all defence sectors together and enables winning strategies. 

HighSide is the most effective way to eliminate the most prevalent attacks. It’s the solution DSEI attendees are looking for.

References

  1. https://www.space.com/trump-launches-us-space-command.html
  2. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/774450/LE-SHUKSI_2018-SUMMARY_REPORT-FINAL-Issue4-S2C250119.pdf
  3. https://www.defensenews.com/global/europe/2019/07/18/uk-us-militaries-join-forces-to-keep-the-upper-hand-in-space/
  4. https://www.aerodefensetech.com/component/content/article/adt/features/articles/28395
  5. https://www.heritage.org/military-strength/topical-essays/logistics-the-lifeblood-military-power
  6. https://www.heritage.org/military-strength/topical-essays/winning-future-wars-modernization-and-21st-century-defense
  7. https://www.industryweek.com/technology-and-iiot/cyberattacks-skyrocketed-2018-are-you-ready-2019
  8. https://www.eda.europa.eu/info-hub/press-centre/latest-press-releases/2016/05/03/the-next-industrial-(r)evolution-what-implications-for-the-security-and-defence-sector
  9. https://studyonline.rmit.edu.au/blog/skills-for-industry-4
  10. https://www.nist.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2018/10/15/cybersecurity_is_everyones_job_v1.0.pdf
  11. https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/News/Article/Article/1572401/dod-it-efforts-focus-on-warfighter-competitive-edge-cio-says/

Cecilia Clark

First introduced to information security while serving as a Signal Officer in the US Army. During my time in the military, I managed information security from all sides of the discipline - as a user, service provider, and culture change agent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *