Guard to Launch 10 Cyber Protection Teams Nationwide

Soldiers and Airmen from the North Carolina National Guard train for Cyber Guard 15, conducting a "red vs. blue" cyber exercise with help from the Kansas Air National Guard acting as the opposing force. Cyber Guard 15 is an exercise designed to defend Department of Defense information networks in the U.S. from disruptive or destructive cyberattacks. Photo by Major Robert Felicio, Army National Guard

Soldiers and Airmen from the North Carolina National Guard train for Cyber Guard 15, conducting a "red vs. blue" cyber exercise with help from the Kansas Air National Guard acting as the opposing force. Cyber Guard 15 is an exercise designed to defend Department of Defense information networks in the U.S. from disruptive or destructive cyberattacks. Photo by Major Robert Felicio, Army National Guard

Over the next three fiscal years, the Army National Guard plans to establish 10 Cyber Protection Teams (CPTs) in an effort to improve the Nation’s “cyber posture” or ability to defend against cyber attacks.

Read or listen to the news on just about any day, and you’ll hear about the theft of personal information or credit card numbers due to hacking, a phishing scam, or the spread of a computer virus.

Lieutenant Colonel Matt Chytka, Chief Information Officer for North Carolina National Guard, explains that cyber affects everything – academic institutions, corporations, law enforcement, government, and everyday citizens.

Even though these threats to computer networks are global in nature, one of the Guard’s distinct advantages is its ability to act locally because its personnel are already entrenched within the community.

Although the Guard has not responded to a cyber emergency as yet in North Carolina, it has had the opportunity to partner with State agencies to do assessments and training, says LTC Chytka.

“In the event something should happen, we’re not meeting each other for the first time and trying to figure out who knows what. We’ve already had that handshake and exchange of knowledge.”

LTC Chytka, who joined the Guard in 1979 as an 11C Indirect Fire Infantryman, worked on a team that installed and configured the first local area network (LAN) in the North Carolina Guard in the early 1990s.

“It became obvious to all of us, even in those early archaic days, that issues like network security, user authentication, and how to prevent unauthorized access were going to be critical elements of the IT environment.”

These days, in his role as CIO, LTC Chytka considers it his job to campaign for his State to serve as home base for one of the CPTs. National Guard Bureau will be deciding where the teams are based. So far, California, Georgia, and a joint team in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio were the first three teams to be chosen.

LTC Chytka says a cyber event that would require a CPT’s expertise could be anything from a major network hack to an infrastructure attack – where someone attempts to infiltrate and manipulate something major, like a power plant, gas line, or transportation network. He notes that his State is home to a number of airports, the Research Triangle Park, which is the largest research park in the country, and ports all along its coast.

“All of those offer unique and different cyber opportunities we have to think about and prepare for,” he says.

While a number of Department of Defense components are focusing on cyber defense, LTC Chytka says that the Guard is uniquely qualified to contribute to the effort.

“We have a very strong ability versus our active duty brethren to attract, and, particularly, to retain, highly skilled cyber military professionals that the Nation requires in order to maintain a keen cyber edge and superiority in the cyberspace realm.”

Part of that can be attributed to the fact that National Guard service is typically part-time, and therefore Guard members are able to maintain full-time private sector careers.

LTC Chytka notes that a number of North Carolina National Guard members are cyber professionals and subject matter experts who work for some of the major cyber defense, research, development, and protection companies across the State.

The CPTs will be comprised of military officers, warrant officers, and enlisted cyber warriors. LTC Chytka believes the following military occupational specialties (MOS) will be essential to these teams:

255S Cyberspace Defense Technician

255A Information Services Technician

25E Electromagnetic Spectrum Manager

25B Information Technology Specialist

25A Signal Officer

35F Intelligence Analyst

25D Cyber Network Defender

Plus, a new series of cyber-related MOSs that will help staff the CPTs is currently under development.

A cyber warrior should be able to apply deliberate, deep, and analytical thought, and have a willingness to ask questions and learn, says LTC Chytka.

“You are always going to be learning a new platform, a new infrastructure, a new coding algorithm. The cyber world is not one of the professions you can get a certification, get a degree, and ride that into the sunset without having to do a whole lot more additional education and professional development just to try to stay current with where the industry and cyber world are heading.”

If you’ve got a logical mind, and you never want to stop learning new things, find out more about a Guard career in cyber by visiting our jobs board and contacting a recruiter today.

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Guard Spotlight: North Carolina

Preparing Cyber Warriors for State and National Duty

A Soldier updates computers at the NCNG's Joint Force Headquarters in Raleigh. NCNG is Always Ready against any threat, including cyber attacks. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jordan)

A Soldier updates computers at the NCNG's Joint Force Headquarters in Raleigh. NCNG is Always Ready against any threat, including cyber attacks. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jordan)

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.

If you have what it takes to be a cyber warrior, visit our jobs board today and contact a recruiter.

Original article by Lt. Col. Matthew Devivo, North Carolina National Guard, appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil.

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