With MAMA, U.S. Air Force Aiming to Raise Cyber Awareness on Networks

The United States Air Force is attempting to enhance its cyber situational awareness in order to contend with “increasingly sophisticated” threats to its networks and systems.

The United States Air Force is attempting to enhance what the military service branch is calling cyber situational awareness in order to contend with “increasingly sophisticated” threats to its networks and systems.

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Information Directorate announced it was soliciting white papers for a new program, dubbed MAMA, “Mission Awareness for Mission Assurance” in a post on FedBizOpps.Gov late last week.

MAMA’s goal is to achieve mission assurance for military operations and automatically assess mission execution via the analysis of network traffic flows.

The announcement stresses that while the Air Force relies heavily on communication networks, threats – everything from distributed denial of service attacks to anti-satellite (ASAT) to insider threats – always loom.

According to the announcement, MAMA will prioritize mission essential functions, map critical cyber assets and analyze and mitigate vulnerabilities and risks.

While the announcement lauds the fact that air and space missions have adopted what it calls cyber SA, or situational awareness, even insisting, “cyber is inextricably entwined,” with them, it admits the Air Force has no “true” SA.

It hopes that MAMA will change that and provide further mission awareness, especially as it pertains to “slow and low” cyber threats that come across the agency’s specialized information grid, AFNET.

The solicitation claims that any information it gathers will be forwarded along to Phoenix Prime, a suite of services that enables the agency to manage information between mission partners. The service obtains, analyzes, and prioritizes information about users and missions.

Collectively MAMA has several focus areas, but the gist of it is to ensure that the Air Force’s mission critical services are “well designed and robust to cyber threats.”

The move as a whole builds off of something called “Cyber Vision 2025,” a study led by Air Force Chief Scientist Dr. Mark T. Maybury in late 2012 that found that “malicious insiders, insecure supply chains and increasingly sophisticated adversaries” were threatening the Air Force’s cyberspace and was implicating the way the service conducts its missions.

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