Augusta symposium on developing America’s military cyber workforce begins

Col. Andrew Hall, director of the Army Cyber Institute at West Point, explained the threat of weaponized artificial intelligence at the Cyber Education, Research and Training Symposium in Augusta on Wednesday. JOE HOTCHKISS/STAFF

New cybersecurity threats surface every day. So what does it take to succeed on the cyberspace battlefield?

 

Hundreds of people are visiting Augusta this week to help answer that question.

Military, academic and corporate stakeholders in the future of cybersecurity gathered in the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center on Wednesday for the inaugural Cyber Education, Research and Training Symposium.

About 475 people signed up to share issues and answers on developing America’s military cyber workforce.

“This is an important week, because we all have the same challenge: How can we build cyber professionals to defend our nation?” said Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., commanding general at Fort Gordon and the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re in academia, in industry or in the government. We all have the same challenge. And it’s key for forums like this where we come together and we share lessons learned. That’s really what this week is all about.”

Col. Andrew Hall, director of the Army Cyber Institute at the U.S. Military Academy, helped set the tone of the conference by updating attendees Wednesday morning on current and emerging cyber threats.

West Point has been one of the early adherents to “threatcasting,” a term describing a conceptual framework to help envision future scenarios.

The Army’s institute partners with academics at Arizona State University in a threatcasting lab, to ““find a way to constructively think about the threats that would be about 10 years in the future,” Hall said.

One major threat, Hall said, is the weaponization of artificial intelligence.

The cyber world often relies on autonomous systems that use data that forms models of the physical world. Think of airborne drones or driverless cars.

A breach of that data, even unintentionally, can weaken or destroy a system. A hacker might gain control of that computerized car to drive it into a crowd of people.

The challenge in fighting that threat is the lack of a concrete location. Attacks can be launched remotely from virtually anywhere.

“If you go back to the Second World War, we could spot factories and drop bombs on factories,” Hall said. “Where our artificial intelligence weapons of an adversary might be built is unknown. It could be that we find that they’re building them on our own space or that they’re building them distributively. But really the ability to have a weapons factory that’s building AI is something that’s completely new.”

Hall summed it up like this: Efficiency is easy to hack.

Technology producers strive to make its technology easy for customers to use. But if a threat actor figures out the automation that drives that efficiency, it also can be weaponized.

“As you look at these complex systems, you start to look at the ways that we try to make the systems easier for consumers and customers, to try to make things more efficient,” Hall said. “And then you really find that that efficiency is an area of weakness and something that is exploitable.”

Hall shared a quote from Dr. Edward Sobiesk, a professor of computer and cyber science at West Point. Sobiesk often tells the cadets he instructs: “I don’t need a robot army. I intend to use yours.”

This week’s symposium is being held by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, a nonprofit group dedicated to advancing professional knowledge and relationships in the fields of communications, information technology, intelligence and security.

Reach Joe Hotchkiss at (706) 823-3543 or joe.hotchkiss@augustachronicle.com.

 

 

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