SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific: TCAD – Tactical Cyber Attack Deterrence

Tactical environments have frequent personnel changes and computing skills are limited. These systems must be resilient and continue to operate even under attack. The damage done should be kept to minimum, preferably the system should return to a well know good state as rapidly as possible.

The field commanders computing assets, especially the data collection modules, accepts inputs from a variety of sources, including some that have not been vetted. Thus protecting these computing assets in theater is a challenge.

The current cyber defense approach relies on knowledge of the attacker’s approach and system vulnerabilities. The proposed moving target defense continuously transforms the attack surface and protects assets from long term damage. We use a moving target defense to both deter and automatically recover from an attack. We have already employed this technique to reduce the exposure times of servers and allowing them to automatically recover from certain types of attacks. In addition to reducing exposure time, we will diminish the attack vectors by disrupting the ability for the adversary to observe, orient and decide on an attack.

National Library of Medicine: Personal Health Record Project (Subcontract)

SCIT Labs personnel are actively supporting the Personal Health Record (PHR) Project of the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, a division of the National Library of Medicine. Under the direction of the LHNCBC Director, the project is examining the implementation and effectiveness of personal health records. The PHR is a web-based tool for consumers to keep track of their own health information as well as that of their children and elderly or other dependents. It takes advantage of national coding and terminology standards and in the future will help serve as a bridge for meaningful data exchange between electronic health record systems. Security of personally identifiable information is maintained in all aspects of the system, including via secure coding methods, physical storage security, and restricted access to user data.

Although the PHR is not yet live, NLM is in the final stages of contract negotiations with a local hospital that has agreed to host the PHR. For a preview, visit

DHS: Scalable MTD [Moving Target Defense] Based on SCIT Technology

The increasing reliance of government, business and not-for-profit sector on computing infrastructure has provided our adversaries with an opportunity to gain advantage by launching organized, targeted, and coordinated attacks. The attackers have several motivations, including: (1) burglary: data theft related to intellectual property or personal information; (2) vandalism: leading to web site defacement and reduced availability on the internet; (3) extortion: using threats of DDOS, database encryption, or other mischief, bad guys can extort their cyber victims. SCIT Labs products focus on directly mitigating the effects of the first two – we reduce the opportunity for malicious ex-filtration of data, and limit the duration for which vandals are succeeding. We have an indirect impact on the extortion problem – making it difficult for the bad actors from completing the bad acts, e.g. encryption of the database. In this SBIR we plan to undertake research to support our product plan.

The current approaches to cyber security are reactive and rely on our ability to identify the vulnerabilities in our systems and model attacker strategy. Detecting and preventing all attacks is hard and we believe nearly impossible. By slightly modifying their strategy the attacker can readily defeat the current defensive systems. Moreover, the manpower required to manage alerts, generated by the IDS/IPS and log analysis and reduced through a SIEM, is large and beyond the reach of even large corporations. To illustrate the complexity, we note that Symantec reports encountering 286 million unique variants of malware in 2010.

SCIT – the digital vaccine is a new approach to the cyber security problem. We focus on server security. We have built systems that convert sitting duck static servers into more agile and dynamic systems. To demonstrate the scalability of SCIT, we have interfaced SCIT to HP Fortify Runtime and Guidance Software Encase forensics tool. The deployment of SCIT in an environment of many (thousands) of VMs is explored.

Department of Labor: Virtual Career Network - Healthcare (Subcontract)

Healthcare is among the fastest growing fields in the US economy and offers its workers good salaries and great opportunities for advancement. The VCN (Virtual Career Network Healthcare) is an “open source” workforce services and online learning delivery platform built and operated by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) under a grant from the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) of the United States Department of Labor (DOL). This website was developed to help US workers transition into healthcare careers. VCN (Healthcare) users can learn about healthcare careers, locate education and training programs, build a robust career portfolio, and search for jobs.

SCIT Labs helped designed the Functional, System and Security Architecture of the VCN Platform. This involved setting up highly available cluster of servers that was designed to be robust and secure. Since Personally Identifiable Information (PII) was being stored as part of the platform, it was critical to ensure that all information was encrypted both in storage and transit.

National Library of Medicine: Lost Person Finder (Subcontract)

SCIT Labs supported development of the Lost Persons Finder (LPF) project during the Haiti Earthquake.

National Library of Medicine: Unified Medical Language System: Knowledge Source Server (Subcontract)

SCIT Labs personnel contributed to the design, development and management of a next generation medical informatics system called the UMLS Knowledge Source Server (UMLSKS) that allowed users to search and retrieve information from various medical vocabularies contained in the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS). As part of this work we designed a fast, efficient and flexible system using Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) and Web2.0 technologies to accommodate the complex and varying needs of the UMLS user community.

US Army CERDEC: SCIT-DNS: A Domain Name Server (DNS) Protection Technique

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a critical part of the internet infrastructure. Because of DNS, users do not need to remember the IP address of the website, but can access them by using an easy to remember domain name (URL). DNS was designed for a trusted environment. Today’s malicious activity has reduced the trustworthiness of the DNS mapping.

DNSSEC has been proposed as a secure alternative, but is not suited for all environments. There are key management and political constraints to DNSSEC adoption, and DNSSEC adoption rates ave very low. In the tactical environment DNSSEC implementations are particularly challenging. In this project we propose an alternative approach that has the operational convenience of DNS and near DNSSEC trustworthiness.

In our prior work we have developed SCIT technology that mitigates malware type of attacks. We have built an Authoritative Only DNS server based on this technology. In the current project we have extended our previous work to a recursive DNS server. We have augmented the SCIT-DNS server so that attacks like cache poisoning can also be handled by the new solution. Reflecting our general augmentation approach to cover more attacks, we call our new approach Hybrid SCIT – DNS.

This project was supervised and monitored by CERDEC and has application in the Army’s tactical environment.

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