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PhalanX: The Shield of the Army’s Network

By Program Manager I3C2

Product Manager (PdM) Defensive Cyber Operations (DCO) will soon unveil the latest prototype of the defensive cyber platform known as PhalanX. The PhalanX system will fuel the Cyber Protection Brigade’s (CPB) Mission Planning by allowing the unit to conduct passive network visualization. Essentially, PhalanX works by synchronizing the CPB’s various defensive cyber components into one interface. Its holistic functions will protect the network from cyber-attacks in real time, and at the speed of the enemy.

“Think of PhalanX as command and control for the Cyber Protection Brigade,” said Lt. Col. Scott Helmore, DCO’s PdM. “The PhalanX software platform integrates all the CPB’s other defensive cyber capabilities into a one-stop-shop.”

The first edition of PhalanX was delivered to the CPB in mid-February at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Additional rollouts of upgraded versions will be released as capabilities expand. Initial training exercises of PhalanX 1.0 yielded key wins and lessons learned. A major win was the successful integration of two defensive cyber tool suits, Splunk and Endgame. The tool suites are collaboratively used to discover, mitigate, clear, and remediate cyber-attacks.

PhalanX 1.0 now gives CPB planners and operators the power to conduct effective mission analysis by promoting an understanding of the network environment, surveying available resources, assessing readiness of teams, and visualizing network activities while describing and directing operations to meet threat challenges.

The platform also identifies key training requirements to meet the supported commander’s end-state. The capabilities operate from a tailorable mission dashboard (UI/UX) that enables the Army to understand the operational activities of CPB, and their associated missions, composition, and disposition of the force. Additionally, the platform demonstrates integration with other PdM DCO programs, like Cyber Analytics and DCO tools desired by the CPB.

Future PhalanX development will tailor the system’s general dynamics into distinct features, such as Army specific visuals and icons.

“We don’t expect every vendor to show up with products that are 100% ready to be inserted into the Army,” said Lt. Col. Helmore. “We collaborate with industry to adapt systems to a more Army-specific environment.”

PhalanX builds upon five years of research and development at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the PlanX program. The next phase of the system, PhalanX 2.0, is to be released by DCO in late July.

The team is orienting its development on enhancing the battlespace (UI), planning and armory (App Store) modules. Key features of CR 2.0 include the parsing of mission orders, network visualization, advancements in team communication, and integration with the Army hardware platforms DDS (Deployable DCO System) and GDP (Garrison DCO Platform). These efforts will be leveraged and on display during future training exercises, by both service and geographical Cyber Protection Teams.

Major Shakena Evans, a DCO Assistant Project Manager (APM), says ongoing developments of PhalanX will provide increased advantage to Soldiers fighting in the cyber domain: “The Army’s investment in the PhalanX capability ensures that Services Cyber mission forces retain a significant advantage in a domain that presents not only daily challenges from adversaries but openly exposes vulnerabilities to our forces in the field.”

The name PhalanX derives from an ancient, Greek word that is defined as a group of heavily armed infantry formed in ranks and files close and deep, with shields joined and long spears overlapping. PhalanX represents the metaphorical shield that will be used to protect the Army’s networks.

Posted August 06, 2018