On 22 March, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) published its Defence Command Paper, outlining how the organization plans to spend £188bn on the armed forces over the next four years.
Illustrating the MoD’s appetite to become a world leader in space and cyberspace, the paper described how the UK intends to counter a range of “disruptive” state and non-state threats that possess access to cyberspace capabilities and other advanced weapons.
“The newer domains of cyberspace and space pose significant challenges. Working with the intelligence and security community, our cyberspace and intelligence networks will protect the UK against espionage and threats to our critical national infrastructure,” the paper stated, before outlining investments in transformative and digital capabilities to enable a multi-domain force to compete more effectively.
Within a week of the paper being published, Viasat UK officially opened its state-of-the-art Network Operations Centre (NOC) and Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) in Aldershot, UK, designed to support the MoD against increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks from a growing number of adversaries. It further underpins the UK’s broadband agenda, where commercial and home SATCOM are becoming increasingly viable and important for future communications.
The facility — which will create new roles for more than 75 highly-skilled network, analysis and cyber security operators — forms part of an expected £300m investment into the UK by Viasat in support of the launch and services of the ViaSat-3 global satellite constellation coming online in the coming years.
Developed on the back of Viasat’s experience in protecting the satellite communications (SATCOM) networks of the MoD and U.S. Department of Defense, the NOC/CSOC is already operating to support government and commercial customers in the UK and Europe.
Fully funded by Viasat UK, the NOC/CSOC monitors the health of SATCOM and other networks on a 24/7 basis throughout the year. The facility also assists customers in determining their cyber, communications and SATCOM requirements: security integration; optimization of solutions and networks; provision of monitoring structures; and escalation of responses to a cyberattack.
The NOC/CSOC — which exploits network telemetry, behavioral analytics and trend analysis — also provides technical support and provisioning for all Viasat solutions — from networks to user terminals and user devices. The UK facility is also networked to Viasat’s primary CSOC, co-located at its headquarters in Carlsbad, CA.
“Without the NOC/CSOC, networks cannot provide the secure, resilient backbone required by the UK MoD,” said Viasat UK Managing Director Steve Beeching. “The CSOC offers the ability to conduct cybersecurity across the network through all security classifications here in the UK as well as abroad,” he added, before confirming government networks could be segregated for maximum levels in security and control.
“With the expansion of the UK’s sovereign SATCOM capability, it’s a logical step to ensure that we have local and sovereign support and the expertise necessary to utilise all services and solutions available,” Beeching said. “The NOC/CSOC is an extension of our customers’ facilities, operations, missions, and networks, providing everything from a telephone help desk through to fully integrated services.”
Government SATCOM accounts for just 2% of the global SATCOM market, a big shift from when government was the dominant user. However, Beeching noted the way government customers want to manage their networks and the security operations being performed are completely different to commercial customers, so they rightly often become a more demanding customer of a NOC/CSOC.
The UK’s NOC/CSOC is also planned to be forward compatible to support the injection of fast-moving commercial technologies in the coming years.
“I believe there’s going to be a heavy augmentation of military capability through the private sector. These capabilities will make us part of the MoD’s future digital backbone,” Beeching said.
The digital backbone will allow the UK MoD to benefit from emerging technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These technologies include artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML); synthetics, autonomy, and robotics; big data analysis; the Internet of Things (IoT); 5G and 6G communications networks; additive manufacturing; and quantum computing.
To enable cloud computing at the edge, you need very secure and flexible networks that expand into those very hard and difficult to reach austere environments. Those are going to need to be software defined and retain the ability to move beams, traffic, data and network in real time, according to Beeching.
“As we deliver virtual private networks in and through space, the ability to move data in near-real time around the world for mission demands is becoming a reality for today’s operations,” Beeching said. “5G, the Internet of Things, everything connected to everything, and the ability to manage and understand a network and all the devices within it — all of those analytics, predictive entities and behavioral metrics become central to every mission and its success.”