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The Latest Research in Software Engineering and Cybersecurity

Electronic Countermeasures

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, insurgents' use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) proliferated. The United States ramped up its development of counter-IED equipment to improve standoff detection of explosives and explosive precursor components and to defeat IEDs themselves as part of a broader defense capability. One effective strategy was jamming or interrupting radio frequency (RF) communications to counter radio-controlled IEDs (RCIEDs). This approach disrupts critical parts of RF communications, making the RCIED's communication to activate ineffective, saving both warfighter and civilian lives and property. For some time now, the cyber world has also been under attack by a diffused set of enemies who improvise their own tools in many different varieties and hide them where they can do much damage. This analogy has its limitations; however, here I want to explore the idea of disrupting communications from malicious code such as ransomware that is used to lock up your digital assets, or data-exfiltration software that is used to steal your digital data.

Many organizations want to share data sets across the enterprise, but taking the first steps can be challenging. These challenges range from purely technical issues, such as data formats and APIs, to organizational cultures in which managers resist sharing data they feel they own. Data Governance is a set of practices that enable data to create value within an enterprise. When launching a data governance initiative, many organizations choose to apply best practices, such as those collected in the Data Management Association's Body of Knowledge (DAMA-BOK). While these practices define a desirable end state, our experience is that attempting to apply them broadly across the enterprise as a first step can be disruptive, expensive, and slow to deliver value. In our work with several industry and government organizations, SEI researchers have developed an incremental approach to launching data governance that delivers immediate payback. This post highlights our approach, which is based on six principles.

The future of autonomy in the military could include unmanned cargo delivery; micro-autonomous air/ground systems to enhance platoon, squad, and soldier situational awareness; and manned and unmanned teaming in both air and ground maneuvers, according to a 2016 presentation by Robert Sadowski, chief roboticist for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), which researches and develops advanced technologies for ground systems. One day, robot medics may even carry wounded soldiers out of battle. The system behind these feats is ROS-M, the militarized version of the Robot Operating System (ROS), an open-source set of software libraries and tools for building robot applications. In this post, I will describe the work of SEI researchers to create an environment within ROS-M for developing unmanned systems that spurs innovation and reduces development time.

The year 2016 witnessed advancements in artificial intelligence in self-driving cars, language translation, and big data. That same time period, however, also witnessed the rise of ransomware, botnets, and attack vectors as popular forms of malware attack, with cybercriminals continually expanding their methods of attack (e.g., attached scripts to phishing emails and randomization), according to Malware Byte's State of Malware report. To complement the skills and capacities of human analysts, organizations are turning to machine learning (ML) in hopes of providing a more forceful deterrent. ABI Research forecasts that "machine learning in cybersecurity will boost big data, intelligence, and analytics spending to $96 billion by 2021." At the SEI, machine learning has played a critical role across several technologies and practices that we have developed to reduce the opportunity for and limit the damage of cyber attacks. In this post--the first in a series highlighting the application of machine learning across several research projects--I introduce the concept of machine learning, explain how machine learning is applied in practice, and touch on its application to cybersecurity throughout the article.

This blog post is coauthored by Jose Morales and Angela Horneman.

On May 12, 2017, in the course of a day, the WannaCry ransomware attack infected nearly a quarter million computers. WannaCry is the latest in a growing number of ransomware attacks where, instead of stealing data, cyber criminals hold data hostage and demand a ransom payment. WannaCry was perhaps the largest ransomware attack to date, taking over a wide swath of global computers from FedEx in the United States to the systems that power Britain's healthcare system to systems across Asia, according to the New York Times. In this post, we spell out several best practices for prevention and response to a ransomware attack.

Have you ever been developing or acquiring a system and said to yourself, I can't be the first architect to design this type of system. How can I tap into the architecture knowledge that already exists in this domain? If so, you might be looking for a reference architecture. A reference architecture describes a family of similar systems and standardizes nomenclature, defines key solution elements and relationships among them, collects relevant solution patterns, and provides a framework to classify and compare. This blog posting, which is excerpted from the paper, A Reference Architecture for Big Data Systems in the National Security Domain, describes our work developing and applying a reference architecture for big data systems.

When it comes to network traffic, it's important to establish a filtering process that identifies and blocks potential cyberattacks, such as worms spreading ransomware and intruders exploiting vulnerabilities, while permitting the flow of legitimate traffic. In this post, the latest in a series on best practices for network security, I explore best practices for network border protection at the Internet router and firewall.

This post is coauthored by Carol Woody.

Software is a growing component of business and mission-critical systems. As organizations become more dependent on software, security-related risks to their organizational missions also increase. We recently published a technical note that introduces the prototype Software Assurance Framework (SAF), a collection of cybersecurity practices that programs can apply across the acquisition lifecycle and supply chain. We envision program managers using this framework to assess an acquisition program's current cybersecurity practices and chart a course for improvement, ultimately reducing the cybersecurity risk of deployed software-reliant systems. This blog post, which is excerpted from the report, presents three pilot applications of SAF.