By GCN Staff

Cyber Defense Exercise

Naval Academy wins NSA cyber challenge

For four days in mid-April, teams from service academies in the United States and Canada competed in the 15th annual Cyber Defense Exercise – a contest in which cadets design and build computer networks and then and defend them against intrusions by the National Security Agency and Canada's Central Security Services. When the April 13-17 exercise was complete, the U.S. Naval Academy emerged as the winner, capturing its third trophy since the contest began in 2001.

The other teams hailed from the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, U.S. Military Academy and the Royal Military College of Canada. NSA's Information Assurance Directorate sponsored the event, which was hosted by the Parsons Group, a technology engineering services firm.

The exercise ran on a virtual private network to prevent any interference with real, working networks. Cybersecurity specialists graded teams’ ability to “effectively maintain network services while detecting, responding to and recovering from network security intrusions or compromises.”

"CDX is a competition singular in its scope, its execution and in training opportunities," the NSA's Alex Gates said in an announcement of the Naval Academy's win. The students "are able to put theory into practice. CDX provides insights and awareness that simply can't be obtained from traditional classroom instruction."

Posted on Apr 23, 2015 at 10:13 AM0 comments

Philadelphia forks Analytics.USA.gov for local use

Philadelphia forks Analytics.USA.gov for local use

When the General Services Administration's 18F unveiled the Analytics.USA.gov dashboard for federal website traffic, it also posted the code on GitHub.  Now the Philadelphia city government has put that open-source project to use for its own sites with analytics.phila.gov.

In an April 20 blog post announcing the launch, City of Philadelphia Data Scientist Lauren Ancona called the new site a "first attempt to capture a 'big picture' website report card in Philadelphia, and it’s still a rough draft. There are currently almost 30 offices or agencies included in the reporting, with around 25 still to add, as well as several non-phila.gov domains."

The dashboard relies on Google analytics, and is a static website that, for the federal-government version, lives in Amazon S3 cloud storage and is served up via Amazon Cloudfront.  18F published an explanation of the project's technical underpinnings in March.

Posted on Apr 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM0 comments

Army eyes virtual training

Army eyes cloud-based virtual training

The Army is making plans for a cloud-based fully immersive training environment that aims to make soldiers’ time in the field more productive and meaningful.

"The next capability will be a leader-focused, soldier-centric capability that immerses a soldier, wherever they are at the point of training, in a synthetic environment, that allows us to tailor that environment to the demands of the leader," Col. David S. Cannon of the Combined Arms Center said. Officials expect those next-gen tools to be introduced between 2023 and 2031, Defense Systems reported.

Cannon envisions the use of 3D goggles that that will realistically and cost-effectively replicate real-life scenarios, such as assembling and disassembling weapons systems for soldiers, no matter their location.  The virtual training will be a “cloud-based, network-delivered, device-oriented capability that is borne on the mission command information network," he said.

The military as a whole has embraced virtual training tools as a means of more efficient training. The Army’s Future Holistic Training Environment-Live Synthetic, or “Live Synth” encompasses several realistic battlespace scenarios and computer modeled simulations that include training with small arms, armored vehicle and aircraft. The Office of Navy Research’s video game-based training tool Strike Group Defender allows sailors to train in a risk-free environment, offering feedback on performance in deploying electronic mechanisms to either avoid incoming missiles or offensively shoot them down.

Posted on Apr 15, 2015 at 8:27 AM0 comments

USGS: 18 million electronic maps downloaded

USGS: 18 million electronic maps downloaded

The U.S. Geological Survey, through the National Geospatial Program, announced that more than 18 million US Topo quadrangles and Historic Topographic Maps have been downloaded in the past six years from the USGS Store or The National Map Viewer.

In late 2009, the USGS began releasing electronic topographic maps, called US Topo maps. In 2012, the National Geospatial Program added high-resolution scans featuring more than 178,000 historical topographic maps of the United States, known as the Historical Topographic Map Collection (HTMC). Both of these digital products are accessible free of charge.

The HTMC database features high-resolution digital scans of legacy paper USGS maps, some as old as 1884. The most popular HTMC map is the Half Dome, Calif., quadrangle, which has been downloaded 4,257 times. The most viewed and downloaded US Topo map is the Washington West, DC, quadrangle, having been downloaded 2,785 times, according to USGS.

On average nearly 280,000 US Topo and HTMC maps are downloaded each month. That adds up to more than 9,300 downloads per day or nearly 400 every hour. The majority of downloads are downloaded to .net or .com domains, USGS said.

To further encourage public use, USGS has also posted various videos that explain how to download and manipulate the maps. 

Posted on Apr 09, 2015 at 8:21 AM0 comments

NASA gets practical with 3D printing

NASA gets practical with 3D printing

Remember the film [insert any space drama here] with the damaged space ship and the astronaut who needs a specific tool to return to Earth? Sorry Hollywood, you need a new plot.

NASA is using the 3D printing technology to manufacture tools on the job, in space. While the technology is still in the testing phase, NASA hopes 3D printing will eventually provide supplies for long-term space exploration – think Mars, asteroids, space undiscovered.  

Following the 3D printer’s installation aboard the International Space Station late last year, the crew built 21 items, including a ratchet wrench, the first tool built in space. The 3D printer used on the space station created each item by layering heated plastic filaments on top of each other using design programs supplied to the machine.

The crew sent the tools down to Earth via the SpaceX Dragon so engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama could inspect their durability, strength and structure. The examination, which began April 6, will compare each tool against an identical set made with the same printer before it left Earth. Experimentation with the printer aboard the Space Station will continue over the course of the year.

But 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, isn’t meant for space alone and isn’t limited to plastic tools. The technology to print food and other necessities is also in the works for federal and commercial use. 

Posted on Apr 09, 2015 at 8:21 AM0 comments