Preparing Cyber Warriors for State and National Duty
What do major online and storefront retail giants, Federal and State Government agencies, and national banks/financial institutions have in common?
They all have suffered malicious cyber attacks over the past several years. Cyber intrusions and attacks expose sensitive personal and business information and disrupt essential operations, negatively affecting business and the economy.
Unlike many Government programs, cyber defense is growing in its budget and personnel. The North Carolina National Guard (NCNG) is poised to support the National Guard Bureau and its intent to stand up multiple Cyber Protection Teams (CPT) for U.S. Cyber Command’s Cyber Mission Forces.
Over the past five years, NCNG has built an impressive group of information technology (IT) professionals who make up its Joint Cyber Defense Team. The majority of the team also work as IT specialists in a wide range of state, national, and international industries and corporations.
“A distinct characteristic of North Carolina Guard’s cyber team is its deep bench of experienced industry professionals,” said Captain Robert Felicio, a 15-year cyber defense expert and NCNG cyber team member.
“North Carolina’s robust financial sector in Charlotte, our university system’s research and development programs, and Raleigh-Durham’s Research Triangle Park with its cutting-edge biomedical, engineering, software, data systems, and networking firms, breeds a quality of IT professional rarely seen in other locations in the U.S.,” Felicio said. “We regularly recruit from, train, and collaborate with this remarkable local talent pool.”
The results of this local talent pool are evident in the team’s exceptional performance in recent cyber training events.
NCNG’s Joint Cyber Defense Team, along with 300 Soldiers, Airmen and civilians from 35 States and Territories, participated in Cyber Shield this spring. The exercise was designed to challenge teams with real-world scenarios where their networks were maliciously attacked again and again.
In July, the team participated in U.S. Cyber Command’s Cyber Guard exercise at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Cyber Guard was the largest exercise of its kind, comprised of international partners, Active Duty, National Guard, Reserves, National Security Agency, and U.S. Cyber Command teams who performed their cyber missions in support of the Department of Homeland Security and FBI.
The scenarios revolved around response to foreign-based attacks on Government and privately owned critical infrastructure networks while promoting collaboration and information sharing across all levels of Government. In both exercises, evaluators ranked the North Carolina Guard in the top tier of participating teams.
The same way governors may call their Guard force to respond to natural disasters, National Guard cyber teams will stand ready to answer the call for a cyber emergency. Teams will support Federal, State, and critical infrastructure networks by providing proactive network security assessments, and if necessary, by actively protecting those networks when requested during a time of emergency.
“The Joint Cyber Defense Team assembled in the NCNG is a highly trained, dedicated and motivated group of quiet professionals,” said Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, adjutant general of North Carolina. “They protect and defend our information networks and communications systems across the State, every hour of every day, and stand ready to assist other State and Federal agencies, and others that are part of our critical infrastructure.”
Recently, NCNG’s cyber team supported the National Democratic Convention in Charlotte and the January 2013 Presidential Inauguration. The team also has travelled to Moldova and Romania on several occasions providing network security information sharing with former eastern-bloc countries as part of European Command’s efforts to increase cybersecurity awareness with these potential partners.
Original article by Lt. Col. Matthew Devivo, North Carolina National Guard, appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil.