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Video Above: The Center for Military Modernization sits down for an exclusive interview at the Pentagon with Hon. Gabe Camarillo, Under Secretary of the US Army

By Kris Osborn President, Center for Military Modernization

(Washington D.C.) Military vehicles, aircraft and ships in combat often have seconds, or even less, to identify and destroy an emerging enemy target, a technical ability now more possible due to the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled computing and multi-domain targeting systems. However, this paradigm-changing advantage can be complicated or offset by new risks, as extended multi-domain networks need to be hardened against cyber threats across unprecedented distances and technical formats.

Instant, unanticipated cyberattacks can increasingly cripple military operations in a matter of seconds by jamming networks, intercepting and corrupting time-critical warfare data, intruding into and denying cyber network operations, derailing targeting sensors and weapons guidance systems, or simply disabling vital, interconnected operational networks.

This well-known scenario is a key reason why the Pentagon has in recent years massively revved up its cybersecurity emphasis through applying new technologies, seeking to “bake in” cyber resilience earlier in a system’s development and prototyping process, and integrate a new generation of network protections and security protocols.

Several Pentagon and industry data-hardening or “information assurance” innovations were put to the test in October in the Army’s Project Convergence “campaign of learning” in the desert at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma, Arizona. Multiple air, ground, manned and unmanned nodes, sensors and weapons were integrated with cutting-edge, AI-enabled systems to instantly process data and “pair” sensors to shooters. This process, which has become quite successful since the Project Convergence effort began in 2020, has massively expedited the decision-cycle necessary to find and destroy a critical target faster than an enemy can operate. This breakthrough networking technology, which has reduced the targeting process from 20-mins to 20-secs and introduced a new generation of multi-domain attack and high-speed Combined Arms Maneuver, is essential to high-speed warfare at what Pentagon leaders call “the speed of relevance.”

The transport and analysis of previously unprecedented, massive amounts of data across multiple domains at breakthrough speeds naturally increases the need to “cyber-harden” networks and ensure cyber resilience. As cybersecurity continues to expand beyond historic perimeter-based security, the security of users, devices, networks, applications, services, and data continues to heavily rely upon a host of distributed and embedded cyber sensors and effectors designed to identify and thwart cyber attacks in near real-time. Preventing and stopping cyber attacks before they can negatively impact the operation of mission-critical systems and trying to stay ahead of continuously evolving cyber threats are the primary reasons why the Pentagon and its industry partners such as Raytheon Technologies are making new efforts to pioneer breakthrough cybersecurity solutions.

Raytheon Intelligence and Space, a Raytheon Technologies company, for example, tested a new, integrated “zero trust” cyber security technology system on a ground vehicle during Project Convergence 22 to improve data security for these high-speed combat targeting experiments. The Raytheon technology, called REDPro ZTX (Zero Trust Extended) was designed from the ground up to provide comprehensive, plug-and-play, multi-level Zero Trust security across all pillars of Zero Trust—including data, users, devices, workloads, and networks. REDPro ZTX also provides the required cross-platform orchestration, automation, visibility, analytics, as well as distributed command and control (C2).

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Greg Grzybowski, a DOD account executive with Raytheon Intelligence and Space, describes REDPro ZTX as a cybersecurity system which was integrated onto an Army ground vehicle to bring a new generation of cybersecurity to combat platforms on the move.

“If an attack occurred on that ground vehicle, a cyber attack of some type, we had technologies that were able to defend the hardware layer of the components of that vehicle, the system bus within the vehicle, as well as the vehicle’s operating systems,” Grzybowski told Warrior.

The principal aim of REDPro ZTX is to integrate a series of “embedded” zero trust cyber sensors at the hardware, system bus, OS, service, application, data, and operator levels to find anomalies and detect and neutralize cyberattacks exponentially faster than what is currently possible. Instead of stovepiped detection systems or more rudimentary cyber security applications, Raytheon developers explain that REDPro ZTX is heavily focused on fostering interoperability and data sharing across heterogenous, multi-vendor cyber security solutions. By serving as an open, scalable, extensible, and rapid zero trust integration framework, REDPro ZTX is able to provide military commanders with enhanced cyber situational awareness and rapid, multi-level, cyber response capabilities.

“REDPro ZTX can also be viewed as a cybersecurity mesh that allows us to mix and match best-in-class zero trust and cyber resiliency solutions from virtually any vendor. This allows us to right-size and rapidly deploy comprehensive, cyber resilient zero trust solutions. It provides a way for the commander to be aware of an attack occurring and at the same time, in real time, defend against the attack versus responding to the attack after it's infected something and spread. That's kind of where we are today. We respond through attacks. We're not automatically ready to respond after the infection occurs. What we need to do is respond at the point of attack,” Grzybowski said.

Raytheon’s approach is closely aligned with Zero Trust-related government mandates like Executive Order 14028, NIST Zero Trust standard, and DOD’s latest Zero Trust Strategy.

“Applying Post Quantum Crypto to systems, networks, applications, and services will help address Quantum-enabled cyber attacks, but it will not automatically eliminate all cyber threats. One also needs to address other potential cyber attack vectors, such as the underlying system hardware, operating system, storage, and networks. REDPro ZTX allows us to consistently and automatically enforce zero trust policies and access controls across all aspects of a system, including users, devices, networks, applications, services, and data. For mission-critical systems, we typically start deploying zero trust security at the lowest possible level such as hardware and seamlessly extend monitoring and policy enforcement to the user space, including advanced user and entity-based analytics,” said Dr. Torsten Staab, a Raytheon Intelligence & Space Principal Engineering Fellow and Zero Trust Security R&D Lead.

Having a vendor-agnostic technology is of great significance to the Pentagon, as they have in recent years made many efforts to ensure common sets of standards and a technical infrastructure designed to prevent the services from being “locked in” to a specific or more narrowly configured proprietary offering.

“We've been listening to what the customers asked for and the design principles are there now along with the technology. We're very pleased with how we've been able to put this together in an inclusive vendor environment. We're de-risking this for the DOD. We've invested significant amounts of our internal R&D funds into advancing REDPro ZTX for several years now,” Grzybowski said. “It's a vendor-agnostic, Lego®-like plug-and-play platform for Zero Trust Security. It's very adaptable and through software containerization can support a wide variety of deployment scenarios, including tactical edge, on-premise, multi-cloud, and hybrid deployments. 

Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.