U.S. Navy Trying Experimental Tech To Help Secure Guam

Chinese state-sponsored hackers have been accused of targeting critical infrastructure organizations in Guam.

Bloomberg News

April 18, 2024

2 Min Read
Technicians work on an unconnected transmission tower

(Bloomberg) -- The US Navy has turned to experimental technology to protect remote but critical networks against Chinese hackers, signing a contract with a small mobile carrier to provide cybersecurity for telecommunication companies based on the island of Guam.

Guam, a US territory located 1,600 miles (about 2,600 kilometers) east of Manila, has become an increasingly important military and strategic hub as concerns ratchet up that China might take military action to enforce its claim to the self-ruled island of Taiwan. Critical infrastructure organizations in Guam and elsewhere in the US have been targeted by a Chinese state-sponsored hacking group known as Volt Typhoon, Microsoft Corp. said last year.

Among the networks were “some in the telecommunications sector in Guam,” Tom Burt, the head of Microsoft’s customer security and trust team, told the New York Times last year. The Chinese government has denied the allegations.

The Navy said it signed a contract for a pilot project with mobile carrier Cape that is valued at just over $800,000.

Cape, which describes itself as a “privacy first mobile carrier,” will design, install and test a software-only cellular network for Naval Base Guam to help service members stay connected in a secure manner. Depending on the results, the contract may be expanded to other locations in the Indo-Pacific, the Navy said. 

Related:Bogus AI Images Used By Pro-China Accounts To Inflame U.S. Opinion

Cape’s system uses a combination of advanced encryption, secure protocols and novel obfuscation techniques to prevent hackers from exploiting cellular networks or users, said John Doyle, chief executive officer and founder.

Representatives for the telecommunications companies working in Guam — GTA TeleGuam, IT&E and NTT Docomo — didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Cape, founded in 2022 by former Palantir Technologies Inc. and Anduril Industries Inc. engineers, just closed its Series B funding, raising $61 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and A*, Doyle said.

Cape’s team is already on Guam, working with the three telecommunications companies whose subscribers include military personnel, said Doyle, a former Special Forces sergeant who headed Palantir’s national security business before leaving to create Cape.

“We will deploy software that safeguards sensitive, personal data and keeps it from ever touching the underlying networks beyond their physical infrastructure,” he told Bloomberg. “It solves hard problems on Guam immediately. But it’s also the template for what I really want to build — private, secure and resilient communications beyond the Pacific theater for everyone.”

Volt Typhoon, which has been active since mid-2021, intended to “perform espionage and maintain access without being detected for as long as possible,” according to Microsoft.

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