08 January 2017

Symbiosis: Information Advantage in a Virtual Battlespace...

Symbiosis with machines to gain information advantage, is a challenging problem-set.  The magnitude of Operational Risks will now soar, as we pivot towards machines that are performing more as autonomous colleagues.  Pre-programmed instructions has been the standard for our software-based systems, until now.

The integration challenges ahead on the leading edge of "Information Advantage", produces a spectrum of new-born problems to solve.  User interfaces that are speech driven or by a new Virtual Reality (VR) capability, is just the dawn of a new era.  DARPA (BAA-16-51) is already headed this direction:
The symbiosis portfolio develops technologies to enable machines to understand speech and extract information contained in diverse media, to learn, to reason and apply knowledge gained through experience, and to respond intelligently to new and unforeseen events. Application areas in which machines will prove invaluable as partners include: cyberspace operations, where highly-scripted, distributed cyber attacks have a speed, complexity, and scale that overwhelms human cyber defenders; intelligence analysis, to which machines can bring super-human objectivity; and command and control, where workloads, timelines and stress can exhaust human operators.
"Technological surprise" is a complex area of research.  The problems to be solved are tremendous.  Information advantage in virtual environments has been developing for years.  15 plus years before the U.S. Department of Defense utilized the concept of a public "Bug Bounty" style program for vulnerability discovery on public-facing systems, Bug Bounties were used by the private sector.

Automated Testing tools and the ability to run software scripts that can simulate a human behind the keyboard, were invented more than a decade ago.  It is time for the next generation of information advantage to be addressed; combined with a strategic and policy focused initiative.


Principal Investigators understand the stakes within the cyber domains.  The myriad of adversaries have advanced far beyond current capabilities and are even utilizing our own infrastructure against us.  Their abilities to adapt and change direction, cloak their presence and attack from new locations is finally being understood in the Board Room.

Yet what is the business problem that is being addressed?  Who are going to be the primary beneficiaries of any new invention or solution?  More importantly, why will they continue to use it?

In between commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) and military unique systems is the zone we shall be navigating to in the next few years.  Military adapted commercial technology is the place for tremendous opportunity and new innovation.

How will we get there?

Since there is no viable rapid acquisition structure in place, it means that new leadership and resources will be required to deploy these solutions.  The entrants to this area will prosper, if they are able to mobilize strategically and with speed.

Information advantage is a lofty goal and worth the ambition to achieve it soon.  The speed to attain even a slight edge over the adversary is a whole different strategy when you are talking about information operations.  Different than traditional air or sea domains, the speed and ability to scale, deploy and execute with COTS is exponential.

How long did it take start to finish, for physical solutions such as "PackBot", "TALON", "Sand Flea", "BigDog", "Cheetah", "Perdix", "RiSE", "BEAR" and "WASP" to make it onto the operational arena?  The ARGUS-IS camera on a "Global Hawk" UAS generates 1 million terabytes of data daily with a "persistent stare", to track all ground movements in a medium size city from 60,000 ft.  How long did the procurement take to get this capability into the physical domain?

The speed in the current information warfare domain is exponential using COTS and IoT.  Using existing Virtual Machines on AWS-like infrastructure, combined with IP-addressable CCTV cameras to launch a DDoS on a DNS provider in minutes or hours is just one example. The "Mirai botnet" is just another tool (weapon) in the information advantage virtual battlespace.

So what?

Symbiosis with machines to gain information advantage, is a challenging problem-set.  Think about the time it takes to design, procure and deploy a robot solution on the physical field of play.  Now think about the same, in the almost limitless virtual domains across the globe.  The challenges ahead are formidable and the really hard problems to be solved, remain endless...

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