Cleaner, more modular software that can be updated with less fuss tops the U.S. Navy’s wish list as it girds its fleet for warfighting in cyberspace. These advances would not only help the service stay atop the wave of information system innovation
but also contribute to better security amid
growing and changing threats.
The Navy wants industry to develop
operating systems and software from the start with fewer
bugs. These software products should have fewer vulnerabilities that can be exploited by an adversary, which compound
the service’s efforts at cybersecurity.
“We tend to continue to use code that has vulnerabilities
over and over again in the commercial world, and industry
can help drive the requirement to really clean up some of
the code that’s already there,” offers Rear Adm. Nancy A.
Norton, USN, director of warfare integration for information warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
(OpNav) and deputy director of Navy cybersecurity.
Another vital need is for the Navy to be able to update its
capabilities rapidly without extensively testing all its software,
she adds. Currently, when an operating system undergoes a
major upgrade, every application riding on it must be tested
and modified accordingly. This is a long and laborious process
the Navy would like to reduce or eliminate.
Above all, the service needs systems that are more modular and can be upgraded quickly at both the software and
hardware levels, the admiral emphasizes. Upgrades then can
be paced in much tighter and faster cycles. “Adversaries in
cyberspace are working very quickly and have the ability to
find new vulnerabilities and begin to exploit them almost
immediately,” she notes. “Our ability to upgrade our systems to defend against those same vulnerabilities works at
the pace of acquisition and deployment cycles—yearslong
processes, in some cases.” Adopting the modular approach
could shorten these cycles substantially.
Adm. Norton also wants industry to examine its own
methodologies to ensure that contractors are not vulnerable
to leaving back doors into Navy systems open. Even absent a
back door into a Navy network, a contractor could inadvertently allow access to critical acquisition information.
Cyber has made a big difference in everything the Navy
does, the admiral relates. With cyber defined as a warfighting domain, the Navy is changing many of its operations and
Security, Modularity Drive Navy Cyber
More flexible systems are essential for a more versatile force.
B Y ROBERT K.
An aviation electronics technician
first class performs maintenance
on a mission computer aboard an
MH-60R Seahawk helicopter on an
aircraft carrier. The U. S. Navy seeks
better computer and information
systems for faster upgrades and less
vulnerability to cybermarauders.