Cyber  situational awareness: Hurdling multiple level security barriers with ease

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Cyber situational awareness: Hurdling multiple level security barriers with ease

For IT managers, securing the federal desktop poses numerous challenges, but probably none as daunting as the challenge of safeguarding those at Defense Department and intelligence community command centers. 

For security purposes, data from classified and nonclassified networks cannot be commingled.  As analysts watch changing conditions and message alerts on their displays from various classified sources, they must physically move from one set of keyboards, video displays and mice to another set to actually interact with the information flowing in from a different network.  IT managers strive to improve reaction time and natural workflow, but security and efficiency seem to be opposing forces, and what is jeopardized is command center situational awareness.

Command centers that do not use KVM products pay a steep price.  Four separate domains demand four separate sets of peripherals – keyboards, video displays and mice.  Valuable desk space is consumed with peripherals and the clutter becomes a distraction.  But the steepest price is diminished operational efficiency.  Moving back and forth from one set of mice and keyboards to as many as three others is cumbersome, often confusing and ergonomically challenging, but the biggest worry is fatigue from constant swiveling between peripherals. Over the course of a work day the most severe impairment caused by fatigue is reaction time, and in mission critical exercises, reacting as fast as possible to an alert is a primary objective that may be jeopardized.

With products certified secure according to the NIAP Protection Profile 3.0, IT managers can use KVM and KM switching in highly volatile crisis centers. KM switching allows mission operators to traverse multiple classified networks simply by moving their mouse onto the target display with which they want to interact.  After the mouse crosses into the display, keyboard and sound instantly follow. A user initially doing an internet search on an unclassified network can -- by moving the mouse to the display connected to a classified network -- now see a directive from a commanding officer concerning an altercation in a global hot spot. 

Full situational awareness -- in which all screens, all information feeds, are visible all the time – can mean four networks will require four displays, minimally. If the command center will not support that many displays per operator, an alternative that still delivers full situational awareness uses windowing KVM technology, which displays all four separate network domains on one or two displays in Windows tiles. 

The most important aspect that windowing KVMs overcome is space limitations.  If the work assignment is on a submarine, in a Humvee, emergency response vehicle or the like, space is at a premium. 

As federal cybersecurity initiatives continue to increase in complexity and scope, situational awareness and work efficiency do not have to be compromised at the expense of data security when IT managers deploy PP 3.0 certified secure KVM solutions.  

About the Author

Jim Zakzeski is senior national account manager with Belkin Federal, Cybersecurity Division.

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