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Four Strategies for Securing the Tactical Edge

The military has invested significant time and money implementing edge computing on the battlefield. The Army’s efforts to leverage the tactical cloud to process data on the edge gets information into soldiers’ hands more quickly, allowing them to make decisions in near-real time. But these benefits come with significant challenges, particularly regarding security. The more endpoints, the larger the potential attack surface and the greater the risk. If the low latency and real-time decision-making provided by edge computing is worth the security trade-off, then how do you protect the network? Here are some cybersecurity strategies the military can deploy to protect their networks at the tactical edge.

Segment Connected Devices From the Main Networks

It’s a best practice to segment a device from the main network whenever possible. For the military, this means ensuring battlefield devices operate independently of networks used for other types of communications or databases. Cordoning these devices off from the primary networks makes it more difficult for bad actors to break through multiple endpoints. They won’t be able to easily make a lateral move onto the military’s main networks and penetrate higher-value data sources.

Work Closely With Device Vendors

As the Army continues to implement its internet of battlefield things (IoBT) initiative, it’s going to rely on many devices from a wide array of vendors. It’s incumbent upon those vendors to ensure their devices are secure. Vendors must also commit to exposing data, so the military can accurately and successfully monitor these devices. Military IT administrators should work closely with their chosen vendors to ensure those vendors understand which types of data to expose. Agencies should also work with vendors to develop monitoring practices for connected devices. Traditional network monitoring is inadequate because IoT devices are too small for monitoring agents. Instead, these devices need to be monitored in an agentless way.

Emphasize Training and Staffing

The extensive use of edge computing and connected devices is going to require a fundamental shift in training for IT staff and soldiers in general. Everyone will have to understand the basics of how to look for vulnerabilities within the connected device ecosphere and what to do during a breach. For soldiers, this means understanding the common issues capable of causing security incidents and how to resolve them. They will also need to be trained on who to contact if they cannot address problems themselves.

Track Changes and Manage Configurations

Edge computing and connected devices provide the U.S. military with a distinct advantage, but this advantage can be nullified if devices end up in the wrong hands. Therefore, IT administrators should complement the aforementioned measures with a change tracking system, such as a configuration management database (CMDB). There’s no question edge computing is a fit for the military, but it must be approached with eyes wide open. Defense agencies must develop plans to monitor the voluminous endpoints the edge will bring. Those plans will need to be flexible and will need to evolve over time as the network expands and becomes increasingly disparate. It’s not going to be easy. If done correctly, however, it can be a true game changer for our armed forces. Find the full article on Fifth Domain.
Brandon Shopp
Brandon Shopp is the vice president of product strategy for security, compliance, and tools at SolarWinds. He served as our director of product management since…
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