US Navy developing cyber-safe ship

The U.S. Navy announced that its Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) is leading the creation of a virtual cyber test bed ship called USS Secure in conjunction with three Navy system commands, cyber defense leaders, and experts from coast to coast.

The test bed is designed to make the Naval Sea System Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Centers’ vision, turning ships into cybersafe warships, a reality.

Addressing USS Secure builders at a final planning conference in January, NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Brian Durant, said: “The Navy really needs USS Secure and this is the right way to go. What you’re doing today and what will be fleshed out and executed in the next few months will be briefed to senior Navy leadership.”

In all, 28 cybersafe shipbuilders are collaborating on an inaugural test exercise slated for March this year.

The Navy said the event will test USS Secure’s ability to replicate a naval combatant in a system of systems environment. It will also determine the effectiveness of USS Secure’s real and virtual systems to simulate live systems so the combatant’s cyber defense capabilities can be evaluated without impacting real-time performance requirements.

Dennis Schaeffer, NSWC Philadelphia cybersecurity systems engineer for hull, mechanical and electrical systems aboard Navy nuclear aircraft carriers, said: “This test will give us a snapshot view of the existing interface configuration from the adversary point of view, specifically the Navy Information Operations Command Navy Red Team and the National Cyber Range Penetration Team. The results of the exercise will provide input into our current plans for improving the defense of the system over time.”

Throughout the test, NAVSEA’s Integrated Warfare Systems Engineering Directorate will assess the adequacy of USS Secure to deliver an operationally realistic test bed for cyber certifications and future cybersafe test activities.

Once deployed to protect the fleet with its cyber defense systems, USS Secure and its crew of cyber experts from the military, government, and private sectors will work to immunize Navy surface, undersea, and air warfare systems against the effects of a cyberattack and can rapidly recover when systems are impacted.

NAVAIR and NAVSEA officials anticipate that USS Secure will enable engineers to address cybersecurity holistically across the entire platform so that cybersecurity in the combat system extends to the hull, mechanical, electrical, and other enclaves.

The USS Secure research was conceptualized utilizing Naval Innovation for Science and Engineering (NISE) funds. The NISE program provides the DoD science and engineering organizations the capability to develop and transition technology as well as develop the workforce and enhance laboratory facilities and equipment.