The threats of yesterday no longer remain valid in the technology-laden environment of today. Cyberattacks are prevalent and are one of the most serious and emerging threats facing the Navy. For this reason, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) subject matter experts are taking steps to protect the surface fleet’s combat and weapon systems from virtual attacks by adding a cyber incident response capability to its 24/7 Watch program.
“Cybersecurity tension is growing more each day,” said Phong Trinh, NSWC PHD Combat System Cybersecurity engineer. “PHD’s 24/7 Watch is established to provide combat system technical assistance to the Aegis and Ship Self Defense System (SSDS) ships. PHD is in the planning phase working with the 24/7 Watch to include support to Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The 24/7 Watch can be used to provide cybersecurity as well as combat system support, and it is the vehicle for ships to reach subject matter experts (SME) quickly.”
Hosted by NSWC PHD, 24/7 Watch provides ships with round-the-clock access to command SMEs who cover a wide range of weapon system disciplines, provide continuous system monitoring, and conduct corrective actions when needed. This specialized form of distance support is a necessity to ensure the strength of the U.S. Navy, enabling the fleet to be combat ready at all times.
Due to its on-call nature and access to classified networks, 24/7 Watch is an ideal platform for quickly providing combat and weapon system cybersecurity support to Sailors at sea. NSWC PHD is poised to deploy this capability, having already conducted a tabletop exercise to confirm a solid communication path between ships and their respective organizations.
“Anytime ships experience suspicious cybersecurity events, they contact Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command (NCDOC),” explained Trinh. “NCDOC serves as the Navy’s cyber security service provider, maintaining watch across networks, managing incidents, and mitigating potential attacks. Oftentimes, they are the first to notify a ship when they detect suspicious activities on the Navy network, and likewise, are the first notified by a ship when the crew detects a problem. The ship can also use 24/7 Watch to contact PHD to receive assistance with conducting further investigation and collecting critical information.”
Trinh worked closely with NCDOC and key stakeholders to include 24/7 Watch as part of the cyber incident response process. Moving forward, the NSWC PHD cybersecurity team plans to conduct a more formal exercise in spring 2018 to solidify the notification process across all organizations. In addition, the team is working with LCS to identify requirements for future cyber-related support.
NSWC PHD is a field activity of NAVSEA and provides the global United States Navy fleet with integration, test and evaluation, lifecycle logistics, and in-service engineering for today’s and future warfare systems. Located at Naval Base Ventura County, California, NSWC PHD employs more than 2,500 personnel.