A class of Air Force Academy cadets has come up with a novel solution to keep track of and solve cyber issues for Air Force Space Command - mobile and online applications that use a chat room, user ratings and other features more commonly found on social media than in a military network.
The 15-member Innovative Design class, working with six local industry experts, was asked in August by a Space Command unit to develop a better way for commanders to determine the risk a cyber problem poses to the unit and who is trying to solve it. They unveiled their prototype Wednesday that includes a chat room, an incident response reporting system, a glossary of acronyms and terms and a map that shows the location and severity of the problem as well as the ability to click on any part of the map to get a more detailed view.
"This class was more than what I expected it to be. They provided us with a different way of thinking than I have seen before at the Academy," senior cadet Everett Montano said. "There was no instructor teaching us; the class did the work. We weren't given a goal of what the product should look like. No idea was off limits."
The application, called the CyberWorx Responsive Dashboard, is designed to be used by Air Force personnel ranging from the lowest-ranking airman to wing commanders at any location as a way to crowdsource solutions to cyber problems ranging from a slow internet connection, inability to log into a key system or a network vulnerability. The dashboard allows users to rate posts as a way to automatically integrate the best solutions to common problems into a self-help resource that subsequent users can use to solve the problem themselves.
The class used a concept called "design thinking" in which those involved determine how to solve a problem and how they want that solution to work rather than asking an engineer to solve a technical problem, getting a solution months later and being told how to interact with it. The class and its assignment were developed by the academy's CyberWorx program, which teams military and industry personnel to solve cyber security problems and will present the cadet-developed application next month to the 24th Air Force, Space Command's computer warfare arm.
A key part of the demonstration the class gave Wednesday included a skit during which a pilot couldn't get medical clearance to fly because a router problem in the base's medical clinic prevented personnel there from logging into the clinic's scheduling system, nearly forcing cancellation of a training mission.
"They didn't just see this as a technology problems, but went to the root of the problem, which is how people to interact with each other. The problem has to be handled faster, and how you do that is by getting more eyes on the problem," said Col. Jeffrey Collins, director of CyberWorx. "Crowdsourcing is a spot-on solution to the problem of mission assurance. I don't care who fixes the problem because if the maintenance group can't pump gas (because of a computer issue), we can't fly. I love what you (members of the class) did because you showed a real-world problem."
The next class, which starts in early January, will tackle rewriting policies the Air Force uses in command and control of its cyber personnel, said Lt. Col. Michael Chiaramonte, an associate professor of computer science at the academy and instructor for the four-month course.
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