Vanguard Magazine

Dec/Jan 2015

Preserving capacity, General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, Keys to Canadian SAR

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E EdgE oF TECH 42 DECEMBER 2014/JANUARY 2015 I t is clear that perfect cyber security does not exist and that centralized communications hubs can be vulnerable to at- tacks. But scientists have been moving closer to a poten- tial solution while trying to answer one of nature's riddles: "How does a school of fish defend itself from a shark attack?" Like many seemingly complex natural phenomena, the answer to the riddle is found in a few simple rules, most importantly that each individual in the group only responds to their nearest neighbour. Inspired by the self-organizing behaviour of animal groups such as schools of fish or flocks of birds, professor Richard Yu from Car- leton University, Dr. Helen Tang from Defence Research and De- velopment Canada (DRDC) and their graduate students have used recent advances in consensus algorithms to design a mobile net- work that is resilient to attacks. Consensus algorithms use distrib- uted decision-making where all the devices in a network contribute to agree on the outcomes of calculations in a fashion similar to ma- jority rule, rather than the traditional method of decision-making where a central authority determines which results are valid. "Canadian soldiers operating in the dismounted role cannot be reliant on existing civilian communications infrastructure to sup- port their scheme of manoeuvre," said Major Janus Cihlar of the Canadian Army's Directorate of Land Requirements (DLR). Dis- mounted soldiers require solutions that are adaptable to new and dynamic environments. Traditional centralized networks like cell phone towers are vulnerable to single point failures if their central server is compromised by physical damage or a cyber-attack. "The majority of the places we are sent do not have a commu- nications infrastructure," Cihlar said. Enter Resilient Tactical Networks (RTNs), a buzzword for ad- vanced mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs) that are resilient against cyber-attacks and connection failures. MANETs are an emerging type of wireless networking in which mobile devices are connected on an ad hoc basis. They are self-forming and self-healing, enabling peer-to-peer communication between mobile devices without relying on centralized resources or fixed infrastructure, like cellular towers. For example, in a tactical environment without infrastructure, each dismounted soldier wearing a mobile device connected to the ad hoc network would act as a connection point, or "node", in the network. As soldiers move to new locations, their de- vices would adapt so that data could hop from one device to the next, around buildings and other obstacles that would typically degrade or obstruct traditional line-of-sight communications. Even if one or several connected devices fail or lose reception, the remaining devices in the network can adapt, and continue to communicate to keep the network alive. "Wireless is the future. And everything will be connected," pro- fessor Richard Yu proclaimed at a recent workshop at Carleton University that also included academics from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the University of Western Ontario, military members from the Canadian Army and defence scientists from DRDC. Because MANETs have no central security authority, the re- search teams are developing new security methods so that each device in the network knows which of the other devices can be trusted, by calculating trust values for each device and verifying their identity, amongst other techniques. Due to slight differences between every microchip, buried deep within the signal of each radio transmission is a unique pattern which means that each de- vice has its own "fingerprint." "The modern battlespace is an irregular one, against a tech-en- abled enemy, within urban environments and/or complex terrain," Cihlar explained during his presentation. Using numbers to over- power adversaries and slugging it out is an outdated strategy. "Fighting smart, out-deciding the enemy is what wins battles now. Small groups will disperse and then commanders can aggre- gate tactical information and instruct their troops to make a uni- fied and decisive action to deliver effect and force an outcome." Every fight is different, and requires adaptable capabilities. But each new capability, like the new tactical radios being developed through the Canadian Army's Integrated Soldier System Project (ISSP), brings with it new challenges, both technical and human related. Major Ryan Grant, a signals officer for the Directorate of Sol- dier Systems Project Management, emphasized the Canadian Army's requirement for ease of use. "The intent is not to have the soldier interact with the network. It's not the soldier who enables the network, but the network that enables the soldier. The soldier just turns it on and starts using it." DRDC's cyber operations team continues to work on the secu- rity techniques that need to be built into ad hoc networks so that enemy devices cannot pretend to be friendly devices and intercept information or bring down a network. They intend to produce a prototype device to evaluate the validity and robustness of the new techniques. Securing the self-organizing network This article was written by DRDC staff and originally published at For more, you can also follow on Twitter @DRDC_RDDC.

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