NMCI security features to boost Navy cybersafety

NMCI security features to boost Navy cybersafety

BY DAWN S. ONLEY | GCN STAFF

The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet will give the Navy a layered systems defense that officials expect will decrease its vulnerability to cyberattacks.

The service needs that extra layer as it tries to fend off an increasing number of attacks, said Scott Henderson, head of the NMCI Information Assurance Division for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego.

Henderson cited 'uneven levels of protection within the infrastructure' as a reason for 125 successful intrusions of Navy networks so far this year'up from 89 last year and 117 in 1999.

An even more alarming fact, Henderson said, is that many of the attacks on the Defense Department's unclassified systems in general and the Navy's in particular could have been easily prevented.

Between April 1 and May 8, 63 Defense sites were hacked, according to DOD's Commander Joint Task Force on Computer Network Operations. These sites' vulnerabilities were all previously documented in department Information Assurance Vulnerability Alerts, but no security patches had been installed, Henderson said.

The Navy way

'Doing NMCI is not an option but a requirement for the Department of the Navy to combat the current threat situation,' Henderson said.

NMCI, the $6.9 billion Navy program led by contractor Electronic Data Systems Corp., includes six boundary devices, one at each network operating center, with layers of firewalls and virus scanning software to 'fully isolate the Navy and Marine Corps' from attacks, Henderson said.

The contract also calls for checking for malicious code, using virtual private networks and encrypting e-mail.

The managed service for voice, video and data exchange by Navy users on shore will consolidate 200 networks into an intranet linking more than 360,000 desktop PCs.

EDS will provide upgrades, hardware and software, technical support, e-mail service, training and security in its per-seat charge, which currently averages $3,412 per year.

The security aspect of NMCI couldn't come fast enough, Navy officials said. With a growing number of hackers taking aim at Defense sites and having access to better software tools, the Navy finds itself at a crossroads.

On one hand, the government is training workers to be aware of network problems and is implementing detection tools. But hackers are better organized than they once were and can use commercial products to help them breach systems.

Marine Corps Maj. Carl Wright, citing a recent FBI study, said that for every penny a hacker spends to infiltrate a Defense system, it costs the department $100 to defend against the attack.

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