Army looks to integrate cyber capabilities into training simulations

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 08, 2016) -- Researchers at the Army Cyber Institute want to discover both what cyber effects can be inserted into current Army training simulations, and also how to do that, so that the capabilities cyber warriors bring to the fight can reflect inside kinetic simulations for training in the same way they will reflect on a real-world battlefield.

"How do you integrate these very mature kinetic simulations with cyber, so that if you're going to attack an outpost and the lights are on, you can call in your cyber support element to turn the lights off for you, so you move in under the cover of darkness?" asked Fernando Maymi, a researcher with ACI, which is collocated with the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

At the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, the Army is already working to bring cyber effects to the battlefield there, Maymi said. And the ACI is part of that effort. But while there, they are looking for ideas on what commanders expect from their cyber counterparts, and what cyber personnel can provide, so that those effects can be integrated and represented in existing training simulations and modeling, the same as kinetic effects.

They are also looking to find ways to mesh existing cyber simulations with existing kinetic simulations, so that the effects of actions taken in one simulation will be seen in the other.

"In the simulated environment ... we have the constructive simulation that allows us to train units," Maymi said. "You can simulate artillery fires, you can simulate jet fighters. And we also have virtual ranges for cyber exercises. What we are trying to do is figure out how do you integrate the two, so the cyber warriors are shutting down power on a grid, and the people who are actually moving in that sector of the target see the lights go out. And the defenders mitigate whatever we did to turn the power off to turn the power back on -- and sure enough, they come back on in the simulation, and we have to deal with that too."

Just what kinds of cyber effects are the right ones to emulate inside training simulations is one of the things researchers at ACI are working on.

"What we are working on at West Point is trying to figure out what effects we would want to provide to a brigade command," said Col. Andrew Hall, the director of ACI. "An artilleryman, who is a fire supporter, is going to say I'm going to bring you effects -- it might be cannon or might be rocket fire. Similarly, we need to find out how to add those kinds of cyber effects -- what are the things they would like to have us do. We want to bring it to the real world, but the only way we can test without going to war is in the simulation environment."

Hall said his team is working to determine what cyber capabilities need to be reflected in the simulation environment, and that they are looking to real-world activities for clues in formulating that opinion.

"We're looking at what the Russians have been demonstrating as capabilities in some of their most recent engagements," he said. "So we have got cyber for intelligence, and we are pretty fleshed out there. And we have cyber engaging against other cyber maneuver elements -- so cyber versus cyber. So in this effort what we are trying to break out into is how does cyber really help a maneuver unit."

Such capabilities might include dealing with the smartphones enemies use on the battlefield, as well as the proliferation of store-bought drones.

"Our enemies can now buy drones off the street and there is quite a bit of intelligence information they can gain," Hall said. "And you have to start working on information decisions like do we want to jam their drones, do we want to shoot down their drones, do we want to change the feed on their drones. Those are all the kinds of decisions the commander would have to go through."

Maymi pointed to "smart homes," as another target for cyber warriors that needs to be considered.

"If you want to move cyber to the forward edge of the battlefield, it would be more like smart homes," Maymi said. "How do you turn off power in a particular house because it has smart electronics in it. As we expand the internet of things, to where everything is smart, then that attack surface increases. Those are things we are looking at."

Both Maymi and Hall were on Capitol Hill, July 7, along with others involved in simulation and modeling, to make themselves available to lawmakers there and to discuss their efforts.

"We want lawmakers to know that we are working on modeling cyber effects in conventional warfare," Hall said. "We are trying to figure out how cyber works in ground combat. Not just cyber for intelligence, not just cyber versus cyber, but cyber for ground combat. That's what we are working on, and finding out what that means for our future Army."