In a growing effort to become a key source of information for all cyberspace visitors, the Cyber Command plans to revamp its online presence.
BERKELEY, CA — The United States Cyber Command has enlisted the help of a small group of UC Berkeley students to update and optimize its website through dynamic online simulations of cyberattacks. With online criminal and espionage activity continuously and directly threatening the US Department of Defense and consequently affecting the ordinary citizen, the USCYBERCOM hopes to expand its digital presence and take a proactive approach in addressing pertinent issues in the eye of the public.
The simulations will represent simple computer network attacks in which nodes of a network become compromised by attackers who break through both the network’s perimeter and node defenses. When all nodes have been compromised or when the attackers have been successfully eliminated, the simulation then outputs a report on the simulated attack.
The idea behind these simulations was inspired by recent visualizations1 in response to the global pandemic. Major Sean Cochran of the USCYBERCOM hopes to model cyber attacks after a visual epidemic model, featuring similar key players: the compromised (infected), the uncompromised (uninfected), and attackers.
The Command strives for a proactive, risk-aware strategy to achieve cyberspace superiority, such that “we must stop attacks before they penetrate our cyber defenses or impair our military forces”2. The simulations developed by the USCYBERCOM team allows users to see the limitations and effectiveness of each defense strategy based on a number of variables, such as the spread rate of an infection and the strength of internal defense. Expecting and subduing an attack before the adversaries take action is an integral part of maintaining the structural integrity of the United States’ cyberspace.
Specops Software, a password authentication company, conducted a study and found that the United States is the most prominent target for cyber attacks out of every country in the dataset with 156 significant attacks between 2006 and 20203. Despite the United States’ high number of significant cyber attacks, other detrimental attacks from around the world prove the importance of securing a nation’s network. The CSIS website4 includes a report which states that the cost of cyber crimes in India totalled an astounding $17 billion in 2019. In another instance from September 2020, an American healthcare firm experienced a ransomware attack that caused the hospital to divert emergency vehicles, delay surgical procedures, and revert to a manual data backup. These examples illustrate only a small margin of possibilities for malicious cyber attacks, which is why the USCYBERCOM and the student team are passionate about educating the public about cyber attacks through their visualization. The end goal is not only to educate, but to stimulate the interest of talented and technical individuals to join the efforts to secure and maintain the cyber borders of America.
Since 2010, USCYBERCOM has actively combated breaches in domestic cyberspace from foreign entities, and focuses a great deal of its efforts on defending priority Department of Defense networks and systems in addition to combating criminal and espionage activity online. Apart from developing cyber-combat methods, the USCYBERCOM strives to promote STEM disciplines to facilitate and enhance the nation’s cyber talent. Therefore, the student team behind this project seeks to bridge the knowledge gap between the public and the complex universe of cyberspace by providing a simplified and accessible model to all.
ABOUT US: Rena Song, Lisa Huang, and Sam Jin are DATA-X students at the University of California, Berkeley behind this project. They share an interest in data visualization and cyberspace.
- Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/
- US Cyber Command:https://www.cybercom.mil/Portals/56/Documents/USCYBERCOM%20Vision%20April%202018.pdf
- SPECOPS: https://specopssoft.com/blog/countries-experiencing-significant-cyber-attacks/
- CSIS: https://www.csis.org/programs/strategic-technologies-program/significant-cyber-incidents