Cyber Yankee Training Helps Guard Defend Nation from Cyberattacks

JOINT BASE CAPE COD, Mass. – More than 400 eyes stare at a sea of laptops in a hallway of rooms. These eyes belong to the participants of Cyber Yankee 2018, an exercise between multiple National Guard cyber units and civilian agencies that trains participants to defend critical networks against domestic cyberattacks. 

At first glance, it may not appear as though much is happening, but not all military maneuvers take place on a traditional battlefield.

“They look at those in cyber and think, ‘Oh, they are just behind computer screens not doing anything.’ Well those guys could be the ones defending you, getting your orders properly, [or] your position, where you’re located,” said CPT Lee Ford, assistant team lead with Cyber Yankee and a member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard Defensive Cyber Operations Element (DCOE).

“Technology is engrossed in every facet of our lives, texting mom in California, or ensuring clean water inside your faucets, technology is in every industry,” he said.

During the Cyber Yankee exercise, the Red Cell, or the bad guys, strike the defense, the Blue Cell, with different cyberattack scenarios. These simulated attacks are targeting a water supply networking system, a power company and a Department of Defense network. The Blue Cell mission is to make sure the region remains operational.

The cyber teams are prepared for battle due to their training, specific to the Soldier’s military occupational specialty (MOS), and/or their civilian careers.

In fact, here’s a short video about the Guard’s cyber training:


“We have a bunch of network monitoring software out there. A lot of it is based on skill, too. You have different people who are good at certain things,” said SSG Ryan Beaudoin, Rhode Island National Guard DCOE.

Due to the part-time nature of Guard service, many of the Soldiers on cyber teams come from civilian backgrounds in defense or intrusion detection, working for companies like IBM, Akamai, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

SPC Adam Wong works for MIT Lincoln Laboratories and is also a network and host base forensics analyst with 136th Cyber Security Support Team Detachment, New Hampshire Army National Guard.

“In the event of an intrusion, I will analyze malware files,” said SPC Wong. “I’ll conduct forensics, try to attempt to reverse-engineer the malware to figure out what it’s doing and also trace back into the network logs and try to figure out how it got there.”

He said the group is learning to hone its skills as a team and adapting to work in panic mode.

Part of the team is comprised of military analysts, who provide different angles on how to fight the scenarios.

“We can come in and we can analyze, look up that threat, see if they’ve had any issues in the past, see what they’re motivated by, whether it is money, political affiliation or something like that,” said SSG Tara O’Keefe, military intelligence analyst, 136th Cyber Company, Massachusetts Army National Guard.

SGT Colton Williams, 126th Cyber Protection Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard, is a 31B Military Police Officer retraining as a 25B Information Technology Specialist.

“The level of skills of these individuals, it blows me away,” he said of the cyber teams.

SGT Williams said he believes that this training is important because the network is everywhere, and the Guard needs to be able to activate stateside to help out citizens.

“There’s no dedicated front line, so having a Soldier who’s capable of operating both on the home front and overseas is absolutely necessary,” he said.

So if you’re interested in protecting your Nation, consider joining the Army National Guard, where you can work in a critical field like cyber or intelligence. Check out our job board to explore all of our opportunities and to learn more about our benefits, like money for college and low-cost health and life insurance. You can also contact your local recruiter for more information.

From an original story by SFC Laura Berry, Massachusetts Army National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil, in June 2018.

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