Industry consensus forming around cyber security as emerging new industry takes shape

THE MIL & AERO COMMENTARY, 4 Oct. 2016. Cyber security goes by many names -- and that's one of the reason this emerging new industry remains so fragmented. It's time the industry reached consensus on an all-encompassing term that describes how to keep life- and mission-critical computers free from outside interference.

Industry consensus forming around cyber security as emerging new industry takes shape
Industry consensus forming around cyber security as emerging new industry takes shape
THE MIL & AERO COMMENTARY, 4 Oct. 2016.Cyber security goes by many names -- and that's one of the reason this emerging new industry remains so fragmented. It's time the industry reached consensus on an all-encompassing term that describes how to keep life- and mission-critical computers free from outside interference.

Unfortunately cyber security has come to depict a range of nefarious computer break-ins by shadowy hackers with cryptic names that compromise the credit card accounts of retail store patrons, emails by notable politicians, and the control of cars and unmanned aircraft.

Yet there's much more to cyber security than hackers and attempts to thwart their efforts. Moreover, there's billions of dollars pouring into the cyber security industry today, which represents opportunities for a wide variety of companies.

There's a plethora of descriptive terms in the cyber industry today, among them system security, system integrity, and trusted systems. There have been terms that were in vogue in previous years that have fallen by the wayside, such as information assurance (IA), that authorities such as the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are abandoning.

Related: Air Force to brief industry 25 Oct. on potential $950 million cyber superiority program

In fact DOD officials issued an instruction last August to amend DOD Directive 5134.01, which establishes policy and assigns responsibilities to minimize the risk that DOD’s warfighting mission capability will be impaired due to vulnerabilities in system design or sabotage or subversion of a system’s mission-critical functions or critical components by foreign intelligence, terrorists, or other hostile elements.

The changes specifically substitute the word "cybersecurity" for information assurance. Why the government wants to join cyber and security into one word is beyond me, but I digress.

From this it appears that DOD leaders are setting on the term cyber security to describe outside interference to military computer systems and the embedded computing technology that underlies many of today's sophisticated weapon systems.

Certainly that outside interference, described as vulnerabilities in system design or sabotage or subversion of a system’s mission-critical functions could be intentional, such as the results of hackers, or also could include bits and pieces of computer programs, or bugs, that in certain circumstances could undermine or otherwise interfere with other parts of the program.

Related: Navy cyber security information project involves seven companies and as much as $1 billion

The terms system security, system integrity, and trusted systems are describing aspects of the same thing: cyber security. Realizing this can help define what cyber security really means, and more importantly, can reveal a new perspective of the emerging new cyber security industry.

Much of this became clear to me this week while talking with computer experts attending the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) conference and trade show in Washington. Some of these people realize they're part of the cyber security industry, and some don't.

The computer scientist and companies involved with system security, system integrity, trusted systems, and perhaps even anti-tamper are working the same side of the street. These companies aren't involved in separate and distinct endeavors; they're all part of the cyber security industry.

So what does this mean? Well for one thing it places many embedded computing companies like Mercury Systems, Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, Extreme Engineering Solutions, and Abaco firmly in the cyber security camp.

Related: Pentagon leaders seek to alter budget to transfer $100 million for weapons cyber security

It's true, then that not only the big prime contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin are doing cyber security. We're talking about an already-large and growing technology ecosystem that runs the gamut from software hypervisors all the way up to large and complex computer programs that run big weapons platforms like jet fighters, main battle tanks, surface warships, and unmanned vehicles.

There are plenty of enabling technologies that come to bear on cyber security today, and plenty that will become part of this emerging ecosystem in the future.

Perhaps the first step in jump-starting this new industry is to acknowledge that many of us are taking separate paths toward the same destination. So how many out there are part of the new cyber security industry?

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