With cyber threats constantly evolving and increasing in sophistication, a strong national cybersecurity posture has never been more important. COVID-19 is causing an uncertainty across industry sectors, and criminals as well as adversaries are increasing their cyber-attacks and taking advantage of our increased digital work from home dependence.  It is especially important to protect the organizations that comprise the U.S. Defense Industrial Base.

Defined as the “worldwide industrial complex that enables research and development, as well as design, production, delivery, and maintenance of military weapons systems, subsystems, and components or parts, to meet U.S. military requirements,” Defense industrial base networks host mission-critical information and operational assets vital to national security. If infiltrated, the ramifications could plague the U.S. national security strategy, hamper our warfighting edge, create chaos within the critical infrastructure and ultimately undermine adversary deterrence. 

To effectively protect the Defense Industrial Base, the government and private sector must both work to secure the U.S. critical infrastructure. Organizations should prioritize collaboration to bolster the nation’s cyber resiliency and collectively defend against malicious cyber actors’ intent on doing us harm. 

Proactively defend networks 

It’s widely known that, in an ideal world, organizations should stop threats before they reach their targets. However, to deter effectively, organizations need to have real-time situational awareness of their network infrastructure and supply chain, which can be a difficult undertaking. 

Threat intelligence information sharing between the government and the private sector companies that comprise the Defense Industrial Base is essential to achieving a strategic view of an advanced threat actor.

Today, targets can only know what is happening to their own assets without insight into the attacker’s intent. The Defense Industrial Base Cybersecurity Program allows both the DoD and private companies to share cyber threat information, mitigation and remediation strategies, which helps key players in both sectors increase cyber situational awareness and be more proactive in their security efforts. However, this program is currently voluntary, meaning that the crucial information uncovered within the program is only available to those who proactively join the program. Moving forward, both the public and private sectors must work to enact policies that require collaboration. It is no longer acceptable to rely on incident response protocols, performance assessments of existing systems and one-off reactions to threats without coordination. Increased information sharing is key to staying one step ahead of our adversaries. 

Follow government-suggested guidelines

The U.S. government has dedicated time and resources to help secure the Defense Industrial Base, and organizations must act upon the recommendations provided. Earlier this year, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission released a report on the U.S. government’s cyber readiness, which found that “the U.S. is currently not designed to act with the speed and agility necessary to defend the country in cyberspace.” 

The commission’s findings place an emphasis on protecting the Defense Industrial Base’s intellectual property, and called on Congress to require that these firms share threat data with the DoD and conduct threat hunting on their networks. Both sharing threat data and conducting threat hunting are proven to result in increased defense of our networks.

A secure future

As noted in a recent LawFare blog, “Cyber-enabled intellectual property theft from the DIB and adversary penetration of DIB networks and systems pose an existential threat to U.S. national security.” Given the abundance of cyber-attacks focused on Defense Industrial Base networks, penetrating them is high on our adversaries’ target list. They’re currently zeroing in on the U.S. critical infrastructure, attempting to poach the intellectual property that secures our very nation. Until we are willing to come together across sectors to share threat data, and commit to hiring strong talent, we will remain at a disadvantage. Fundamentally, it is about trust and our ability to put the greater defense above individual interests. If accomplished, the U.S. cybersecurity posture and resiliency will remain strong, deterring malicious cyberattacks against our Defense Industrial Base.

Teresa Shea is vice president of cyber offensive and defensive experts at Raytheon Technologies.

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