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U.S. Army Finds Its New Communications Network Is Vulnerable to Hackers

April 22, 2016, 7:01 PM UTC
Army vehicle with new communications system.
U.S. Army

The U.S. Army’s new $12 billion mobile communications system remains vulnerable to hackers, according to a recent assessment by outside security experts, prompting a series of further improvements.

Already in use in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2, or WIN-T, system is supposed to allow for protected voice, video, and data communications by troops on the move. In June, General Dynamics won a $219 million order for communications systems to go in more than 300 vehicles.

Government overseers have regularly criticized cyber security features of WIN-T in reports over the past few years, prompting an outside review by Johns Hopkins University and the Army Research Laboratory. The public reports do not disclose specific vulnerabilities, however.

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The outside review “recommended both improvements to user training techniques and procedures and hardware and software enhancements to harden against the cyber threat,” Army spokesman Paul Mehney said in a statement. “As with any network system, cyber protection enhancements are an ongoing effort.”

General Dynamics did not respond to a request for comment.

Last year, the Defense Department’s Operational Test & Evaluation unit warned again about the vulnerabilities and noted that there was a risk to the entire defense network, since many systems were interconnected.

“Although improved, WIN-T Increment 2 continues to demonstrate cybersecurity vulnerabilities,” the unit said in a summary report of the status of the program. “This is a complex challenge for the Army since WIN-T is dependent upon the cyber defense capabilities of all mission command systems connected to the network.”

The system brings together a variety of technologies, including satellite transmissions, radios, and line-of-sight communications.

Bloomberg News reported on the new assessment on Thursday.