As 40 international ships and submarines transited toward Hawaii to participate in exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014, the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) hosted two cyber security experiments as part of TRIDENT WARRIOR 2014 (TW14). TW14 is an annual experimentation series which is co-led this year by Commander, U.S. Third Fleet, and Commander, Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC), as part of the Fleet Experimentation (FLEX) program.
Experimentation is a vital function of future force development by informing acquisition decisions and the development of emerging tactics. It also immediately benefits the current force by providing unique training opportunities for participating Sailors. TW14 experimentation is fully integrated into RIMPAC, further expanding the exercise’s robust training environment.
This experimentation series is designed to examine new, emerging and updated doctrine, as well as technological capabilities, by putting them in the hands of the fleet in an operational environment. This allows the Navy to incorporate real-world feedback early in the research and development process.
The TW14 team on board Peleliu investigated the shipboard network by utilizing a monitoring tool to detect and prevent internal and external threats from circumventing the existing system defenses. The monitoring tool could potentially identify and intercept an email containing malicious links in a socially-engineered spear-phishing campaign.
“These emerging technologies will not replace the vigilance we require of our crew to counter the types of cyber security threats that target our Navy each day,” said Capt. Paul C. Spedero, commanding officer of Peleliu. “However, this type of experimentation may
help us identify gaps in our current training, to ensure that our crew will be ready, both afloat and ashore, to deter an adversarial attempt to gain access to our information.”
The TW14 cyber initiative placed Peleliu in a training environment, to examine a programmed cyber defense training and readiness tool which simulates attacks on a shipboard network. This emerging technology also monitored system administrators’ responses to counter the virtual attacks after existing shipboard defenses were triggered.
These experiment initiatives required a simulated hostile cyber environment to investigate the utility of the computer network defense capabilities represented by these technologies, and at the same time provided the crews a realistic cyber threat to train against.
“Having this equipment on board is making us more aware of a number of security issues, and is opening our eyes to things that are happening that we were not aware of,” said Information System Technician 3rd Class Lawrence Bartell, assigned to Peleliu. “It is also helping us prevent other outside threats from occurring in the future.”
After nine months of planning and coordination, these emerging technologies were installed on the ships’ networks in early June and will be removed upon the completion of the transit to Hawaii. TW14 experimentation will continue through each phase of RIMPAC, investigating more than 30 other innovative government and military sponsored potential solutions to fleet challenges.
TW14 is one of 15 other fiscal year 2014 experiment efforts in the FLEX program, managed and executed by NWDC, on behalf of U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Fleet Forces Command. The FLEX program plans, designs, conducts, and assesses experiments in response to the fleet's highest priorities, in order to develop new or improved Navy warfighting capabilities and deliver tangible products to the fleet.
Twenty-three nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2014 is the 24th exercise in the series that began in 1971.