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Five Eyes CIOs highlight growing importance of ‘secure’ information interoperability

The world’s oldest intelligence alliance, Five Eyes, has signalled the need to continue boosting their partnerships during the Military Communication and Information Systems Conference 2019 (MilCIS) in Canberra.

The world’s oldest intelligence alliance, Five Eyes, has signalled the need to continue boosting their partnerships during the Military Communication and Information Systems Conference 2019 (MilCIS) in Canberra.

The partnership between Australia, the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand has been in place since 1946, following the Second World War, but during a briefing at MilCIS, the respective Five Eyes chief information officers all echoed each others sentiments that the need for the partnership would only grow as the global defence and governmental landscape continues to change.


One such change is the evolving technology and the growing information sharing capabilities that these platforms possess, such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Described as the "quarterback" of an air fleet, the F-35 possesses never before seen information sharing capabilities that while granting strategic advantages to the operator, also have the potential to be exploited and reveal critical confidential information.

While exploiting and gaining access to the information being shared by such a platform would prove to be very difficult, it's nonetheless a cause for concern for intelligence agencies looking to protect national interests and assets.


"With the expansion of intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities and the exponential volume of data coming from new technology platforms that we're procuring, we have to really check those assets for all the sensory information becoming available from them," Stephen Pearson, Australian Defence CIO said at MilCIS.

"We have a whole lot of information providing a tactical edge going back to headquarters, across networks, and we need to be able to manage that information quickly and safely." 

Such concern for ensuring the protection of intelligence also exists for such program's supply chains, many of which are done locally.

For example, while Lockheed Martin may theoretically employ the world's strictest security measures for protecting key information about the F-35, what about the small SME that has access to equally critical information as part of their role in the program?

"The challenges we are facing are numerous, such as cyber security and the role of state and non-state players in securing information interoperability and data and other relevant information across our Five Eye partners," Pearson said in his briefing.

"In particular, ensuring our supply chains are secure and you as our suppliers maintain the level of integrity and accountability that we expect from our defence industry partners in that supply chain".

This emphasis on the need to grow alongside the technologies being procured was echoed by Len Bastien, Canada's Defence chief information officer and assistant deputy minister.

"As we get older, we tend to get safer and more comfortable. Well, the world has changed. Not changing... that has happened," said Bastien.

"Digital is bringing the world together and broadening imaginations for many, and Defence needs to pivot.

"If not, we will be left behind."

This outlook is clearly a key focus for Five Eyes, with the partnership recently committing to a statement of intent regarding the security of the internet of things.

Homeland security and public safety ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US gathered in London in July to "discuss our common security challenges with regards to the internet of things (loT), and how we can best protect our citizens from cyber threats", which led to the following agreements:

1) Collaborate with respective industry and standards bodies to provide better protection to users by advocating that devices should be secured by design.

2) Actively seek out opportunities to enhance trust and raise awareness of security safeguards associated with loT devices in our respective nations.

a. Identify and engage industry partners who share Five Eyes’ goals to enhance the security of loT.

b. Identify and engage like-minded nations to encourage international alignment on IoT security, unlocking innovation that builds a strong economy that works for everyone.

3) Share information with Five Eyes partners in a timely manner through appropriate channels and arrangements, consistent with international and domestic law, to aid in the overall improvement of loT security.

"If you think about the fights that we've had in the past, they're not going to look at all like the fights of the future," said Dana Deasy, US Department of Defense CIO at MilCIS.

"We need a different mindset, with different training for the warfighter, and clearly going to need different technology."

Your thoughts

Do you believe Defence is "future-proofing" itself and the future warfighter well enough? How do you see the future battlefield evolving and, in turn, how critical is securing those future technologies from exploitation?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Five Eyes CIOs highlight growing importance of ‘secure’ information interoperability
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