Navy courts Silicon Valley, small biz to solve cyber problems

The Navy is grappling with how it will approach maritime-specific, war-fighting problems in the technology sphere and cyber domain.

As adversarial capabilities and boldness continue to grow the, Navy and its sister services are trying to figure out how to compete in an increasingly complex world. One effort the Navy is undertaking is the “Hack the Machine” project, spearheaded by the Naval Postgraduate School.

“The Navy’s Hack the Machine series is really trying to kick-start a grassroots effort in maritime cybersecurity [that] spans government, academia and civil society,” Cmdr. Zachary Staples, director of the Center for Cyber Warfare at the school, told C4ISRNET.

At the beginning of the year, NPS hosted a hack-athon at the Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, that invited hackers to infiltrate a virtual ship at sea, which was built by NPS’ partner in the effort, Booz Allen Hamilton. Hack the Machine is a follow-on to an event in summer 2016 called “Hack the Sky,” which focused on drones.

“The format we developed was really aimed at one central theme, which is how do we get America’s young, innovative willing to take risk entrepreneurs onto the United States Navy’s most difficult problems,” Staples said. “The real win are the young people that will come up to me and [say]: ‘We didn’t even realize you guys had cool problems.’ ”

This project is essentially aimed at courting nontraditional, technical talent separate from the classic large prime defense contractors.

“We walk away with true insights into maritime cybersecurity that we would have never gotten from the military or defense contractors given the participants,” Staples said. “Hopefully, [we’ll] get a new set of entrepreneurs to bid with the Navy and create a safer world.”

In standing up the Defense Digital Service at the Pentagon, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter tried to instill a startup mentality within the Department of Defense to not only court innovative ideas to get at some of the agency’s most difficult problems, but also create an additional avenue for Americans to serve their country in lieu of putting on a uniform. DDS created pathways…

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