While resisting cyber attackers is never easy, Cross Domain Solutions have a key role to play in safeguarding data sharing, explains Richard Byng
I’m typing this in the office but, truth be told, I’ve not been focused purely on work over the past hour or so. The reason? I had to log on and do some quick online banking.
That priceless ability to move seamlessly from work to life admin and back again – maybe via a cheeky little check of social media – is something that I, and I suspect countless others, have long become accustomed to. I tend to think of it as a form of pay back. After all, smartphones mean we’re always at the mercy of evening or even weekend emails and calls – so it’s only fair that technology can also help us retrieve some of that time as and when required.
But while advances like online banking have fundamentally transformed how we go about our daily lives, we mustn’t take today’s ubiquitous digital tapestry for granted – anything but. The question of online security is never far from the surface.
Mind the gap
As countless organisations and individuals have discovered to their cost, cyber attackers are continually probing for digital weaknesses. Defences are often strong enough to rebut such incursions, but at other times they prove to be little more than a technological Maginot Line.
And unfortunately, the ability to move between systems and networks – so valued by people like myself – is also prized by those propelled by more nefarious objectives. They, historically at least, use the interchanges and exchanges between different networks as a point of entry for malware or malicious activity because data ‘in transit’ is easier to target. But it’s not all bad news.
Although it is never possible to eradicate risk altogether, it’s by no means impossible to reduce the attack surface to a level where the benefits of cross-data sharing far outweigh the risks. So what’s the answer?
Enter Cross Domain Solutions (CDS).
Commence the Defence
Let’s be clear – CDS have not just materialised out of nowhere. For more than 10 years, the internet has been awash with suppliers claiming to offer this type of security hardware. More recently, though, initiatives such as the Raise The Bar programme launched by the US's National Cross Domain Strategy Management Office and National Security Agency are now driving awareness of the levels of security required. In essence, these initiatives seek to establish a higher level of cyber defence across a wider ecosystem of government and commercial organisations.
When you think about it, it’s not surprising that CDS have moved to the mainstream. As the complexity of cyber-attacks increase and the threat landscape continually evolves, it’s only natural that defences need to harden. This means that the ability of CDS to enable secure communication between networks that would otherwise be kept separate, supporting activities ranging from secure mobile working to machine-to-machine data transfers, is clearly going to be in high demand.
That’s not all they can offer either. CDS can also be highly beneficial for managing data transfers between multiple classification levels, even for those of us not working in government. Here at BAE Systems, we have different clearance levels for national security-related work and CDS facilitates the transfer of information and data in order to ensure that the right data goes to the right people.
And CDS can also save organisations lots of money by rationalising the desktop infrastructure. What I mean by this is that if employees use a hot-desk system, CDS enables them to have a single desktop and from there access all the other networks. This means that the office infrastructure costs are greatly reduced, often by millions of pounds.
I’m often asked by colleagues and clients alike about how CDS will evolve in the future. Of course, predicting how technologies will develop can often be something of a fool’s errand but everything points to CDS being in demand for a very long time. And remember, it is by no means limited to national security and defence. Other areas, such as the energy sector and telecoms, for example, also need to be protected by this type of capability.
It’s fair to surmise that with the world only going to be more connected, the demand for security solutions that can work across domains and sectors is only going to increase.
Now, I’d better get back to my online banking.
Learn more about BAE System's range of Cross Domain Solutions
About the author
Richard Byng is a Cross Domain Engineering Manager at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence
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