Army to Modernize Tracking System for Cyber Attacks

US Army Cyber CommandThe U.S. Army is preparing to modernize Blue Force Tracking, its friendly forces tracking system, to ensure continued operability in the event of cyber and electronic warfare attacks.

The Army Wants to be Able to Track Friendly Forces During a Cyber Attack
C4ISRNET | By Daniel Cebul

Washington — The U.S. Army is preparing to modernize its friendly forces tracking system so that it will continue to operate through cyber and electronic warfare attacks.

The service’s situational awareness network, known as Blue Force Tracking, already receives periodic updates, but a more significant upgrade is needed if troops are to be adequately equipped for future warfare. “This capability improvement is necessary as the United States faces increased cyber and electronic warfare threats from near-peer adversaries,” Lt. Col. Shane Sims said in an Army press release.

Defense News reported in November 2017 that Russia’s Zapad exercise took place in a largely EW-hostile environment. Because Russia proved it can jam its own forces relatively easily, military officials are concerned about how well NATO forces are prepared to operate in GPS- and communication-denied environments.

To address these issues, the program office partnered with the Army’s Communications Electronic-Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, and ran concurrent studies that examined the capabilities and limitations of current blue force tracking technology.

The work included:

A traffic study that explored how the current blue force tracking system generates and receives data, as well as the requirements of moving data digitally to identify any network vulnerabilities.

A cyber and electronic warfare study that aimed to identify what emerging technologies need to be developed to stay ahead of adversaries. The Army announcement notes, “assured positioning, navigation and timing, known as PNT, for soldiers in GPS-denied environments was the primary goal in this study.”

A network study that examined how to communicate future data more efficiently within the network.

A transport study that identified the physical infrastructure — radios, satellites and antennas — needed to move larger quantities of information. Part of the solution is to build in redundancies into the network to use different radios and different frequency bands.

This might entail deploying satellites of higher technological quality in larger quantities. A new satellite infrastructure that could handle more data and transmit information faster was credited with the improvements soldiers observed the last time the BFT system was upgraded in 2011.

“The goal of the next-generation BFTs is to reduce the cognitive burden on soldiers by creating a simply and intuitive network,” Sims said.

The Army issued a request for information on the system this month, and CERDEC is set to meet with Army leaders to discuss an acquisition strategy in February.

The Army hopes to issue a request for proposals from industry in early 2020, and could begin fielding the new BFT by 2025, the release said.

Strava Reviewing Features After Heat Map Exposes Military Locations

The App That Exposed the Location of Military Bases With a Heat Map is Reviewing Its Features
CNBC | By Ryan Browne

Strava, the fitness app that exposed the locations and activities of soldiers at U.S. military bases, is reviewing its features to prevent them from being compromised for malicious purposes.

The app, which calls itself a “social network for athletes,” lets users connect a GPS device to the service so that they can upload their workout logs online. This, in turn, revealed the movements of service personnel using the app and additional information about how frequently they were moving.

Strava Chief Executive James Quarles said that the company was “committed to working with military and government officials to address potentially sensitive data.” He added that Strava’s engineering and user experience teams were “simplifying” its privacy and safety features to inform users about how they can control their data.

“Many team members at Strava and in our community, including me, have family members in the armed forces,” Quarles said in an open letter Monday.

“Please know that we are taking this matter seriously and understand our responsibility related to the data you share with us.”

Quarles also emphasized that users could find existing details on how to manage their privacy on Strava’s website.

A U.S. military spokesperson told the Washington Post on Monday that it was revising its guidelines on the use of wireless devices on military facilities.