CACI Q&A With Senior Vice President Kevin McNeill on Cyber Network Modeling and Simulation
Network Modeling and Simulation
P.W. Singer’s 2015 novel Ghost Fleet imagines a scenario in which China launches a massive cyber-attack against the United States, crippling many technologically sophisticated systems, both military and civilian. The fictional attack, though dramatized, illustrated the potential for cyber warfare to shape global events. But cyber and information warfare exist not only in fictional domains, but also actively feature prominently in so-called “grey zone” operations in the real world, from the 2014 invasion of Crimea, to attempts to steal U.S. trade secrets, to those meant to influence American elections.
CACI's cybersecurity experts – comprised of researchers, scientists, analysts, and engineers – are continuously developing and implementing capabilities for the U.S. military and other agencies to protect U.S. networks, institutions, and interests. The military uses CACI’s fast and cost-efficient network mod/sim solutions for cyber research, testing, training, and network planning.
In the interview below, Dr. Kevin McNeill, CACI Senior Vice President of Cyberspace Solutions, discusses how the company delivers realistic mod/sim environments to best train U.S. military personnel. If you wish to schedule an interview with Kevin, please contact CACI Corporate Communications at [email protected].
With technology advancing at a rapid rate, how does CACI keep pace with developing capabilities in a dynamic environment?
The pace of development of information and communications technologies presents challenges to our customers, related to cybersecurity, and new capabilities. The accelerating transition from 4G LTE to 5G technologies and their potential impact on our customers’ mission systems and operational environment requires assessment of security and reliability. But completing full-scale implementations of 5G infrastructure can be expensive. One solution is the use of high-fidelity, bit-accurate mod/sim technologies that support Hardware-in-the-Loop (HITL).
We offer affordable next-generation network mod/sim products and solutions to help our customers evaluate new technologies for to understand and evaluate customer mission systems and operation for resilience in a congested and contested cyberspace domain. For example, CACI’s high-fidelity Live Radio Access Network (LiveRAN) is a wireless network mod/sim technology that provides hardware-in-the-loop capabilities to model and simulate 4G and 5G protocols. The technology supports cost-effective modernization of military ranges used for training exercises, operational analyses, and mission rehearsals as they incorporate 5G technologies.
Can you explain a real-life scenario where it is critical that a mod/sim environment precisely mirrors a cyberattack?
Now that civilian, federal, and military planners are rapidly integrating into networks Operational Technology systems – including industrial control and supervisory control and data acquisition (ICS/SCADA) –the need for advanced cyber testing and training has become essential for cities, military bases, and critical infrastructure.
Consider the prelude to a kinetic war in which an adversary attacks critical infrastructure – perhaps knocking out an entire city’s power grid or disabling transportation systems via a cyberattack. In a scenario such as Ghost Fleet this would probably be a multi-dimensional attack including both Cyber-Physical systems and the use of Social Media for influence operations. To defend against that type of attack, our customers require mod/sim capabilities able to emulate the networks, traffic, and systems as realistically as possible to adequately train operators to respond. This includes realistic emulation of internet “gray-space” traffic, so that the training environment challenges the blue team to detect and recognize the red team’s attack. In this scenario, it is also important to accurately simulate or emulate ICS/SCADA systems for critical infrastructure. For example, CACI’s City Block environment provides cyber defenders and security testers a cyber-physical mod/sim environment by merging ICS/SCADA networks with IT networks for more thorough testing and training. This capability ensures that cyber protection teams understand the methods and impact of cyber-attacks on these systems.
What is next in terms of long-term growth in CACI’s mod/sim solutions and capabilities?
Last year, CACI opened a new office in Port San Antonio, Texas, allowing our company to work more closely with the Air Force and other customers in the region on research and development of full-spectrum cyberspace solutions with affordable, high-fidelity mod/sim products and solutions. We are staying ahead of customer needs developing capabilities necessary to deliver advanced solutions in 5G, distributed computer networking, and training and simulation. Our high-fidelity mod/sim capabilities allow customers to train personnel more cost effectively than having to purchase and deploy actual hardware and equipment. Using a standards-based approach and model-based engineering, we are developing a range of mod/sim tools that can be dynamically composed into a cyber-physical exercise range using model-based software engineering methods. This will include elements that go beyond network and ICS/SCADA modeling to include areas such as logistics, social media, and other domains so that we can address the significant multi-dimensional attacks.
Looking ahead, I anticipate a continued focus on mod/sim in different domains such as information warfare – think social media exploitation – so we will continue with our internal research and development of products to address those threats, as well as continue to focus on defending critical infrastructure and industrial control systems.
We will also continue to focus on helping our customers to meet their challenge of efficiently training their workforce. It’s important to have mod/sim solutions that allow customers to rapidly provide realistic training scenarios to help train new recruits and keep skills refreshed.