Airbus takes charge of system to protect military against cyber-attack

A system designed to verify and mitigate cyber attacks on military assets is being developed by Airbus Group Innovations.

Airbus Group Innovations will lead a 16-month study following the award of £1.4m from Defence Science and Technology Laboratory to develop the Virtual Cyber Centre of Operations, which is part of Dstl’s Cyber Situational Awareness research project.

“Cyber situational awareness (CSA) is a very difficult problem because, in the modern era, we have very complex digital systems that are interconnected,” said Dr Kevin Jones, research team leader – Cyber Operations, Airbus Group Innovations. “I’m not just talking about information, I’m taking about assets  – UAVs and ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance) assets.

“Because they are interconnected and highly complex we have to be able to understand the whole domain, all of those assets within that domain and the types of attack that people are going to put against those types of assets.

“So, we’re not just necessarily talking about information, although that is a key part. What we’re talking about is the effect of the impact on military missions from cyber events and cyber attacks.

“In order to be able to mitigate those we need good situational awareness, we need to understand what is going on in our networks, we need to understand the operation using them [and] what type of capability is someone demanding of my infrastructure at any given time.”

During the project Airbus Group Innovations will work with MooD International and Xuvasi develop a 3D virtual world to enable collaboration and shared situational awareness.

The VCCO project will demonstrate how virtual collaboration might give commanders a better understanding of how they are being targeted by cyber enemies on the battlefield.

Dr Jones said: “If we think about a distributed network, a distributed infrastructure I’m likely to have many cyber security operation centres or many pieces of the jigsaw. How do I bring them all together? That’s what VCCO will do.   

“It will sit in the middle, provide you with all the tools, all of the information you’d expect to see in a physical [cyber] security operations centre but in a virtual world.

“The idea is that it’s a collaboration of people first, then comes the information and the data and the tools that I’ll need because that way I can start bringing together the complex picture that makes up the jigsaw of cyber events.

“In this environment I could also have experts ready wherever they are in the world to help me solve my problems in real time. This is not possible in a physical operations centre where I might potentially have to fly somebody over, or I have to send them emails with information about what I’m seeing.

“The advantage here of a virtual environment is that these people can come in to a live situation to a live cyber event and understand exactly what is going on as if they are physically present in that room.”

MooD International and Xuvasi will provide visual analytics and event correlation data respectively. The collaboration between Airbus Group Innovations, MooD International and Xuvasi follows initial research by each supplier, previously funded through cyber themed competitions run via Dstl’s Centre for Defence Enterprise.

Under attack