USA — CyberPatriot: Preparing for tomorrow’s battles today

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. (AFNS) — Today, just about every aspect of our lives is some­how con­nect­ed to the Inter­net. Our per­son­nel records can be found online as well as our finan­cial records, employ­ment infor­ma­tion — just about every­thing that iden­ti­fies who and what we are.

 -
Air Force Junior ROTC Cadet 2nd Lt. Clay­ton Husk, at back, assists Cadet Air­man Cham­ber­lain James, left, and Cadet Air­man Joseph Ceniza in clos­ing loop­holes in their net­work secu­ri­ty dur­ing the Cyber­Pa­tri­ot IV com­pe­ti­tion at the Nation­al Har­bor, Md., March 23, 2012. Their team, ‘Air Pirates’, from Spokane, Wash., went on to win sec­ond place in the All-Ser­vice Divi­sion of the event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Alexan­der W. Riedel)

On the job, the Inter­net is even more per­va­sive. Every­thing from our elec­tron­ic mil­i­tary per­son­nel flight to order­ing and track­ing equip­ment, per­form­ing main­te­nance and con­trol­ling the skies and space — from unmanned drones to the deploy­ment of nuclear weapons — are now prod­ucts of cyber­space. Our reliance upon the Inter­net and the cyber world has also caused a new threat: one attack could dis­rupt and, in the extreme, affect the Air Force mis­sion as a whole.

At a hotel just on the out­skirts of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., a group of some of the nation’s top tech-savvy high school stu­dents met to test their cyberde­fense skills in a con­test that could launch them into careers as the next gen­er­a­tion of cyberde­fend­ers. Called Cyber­Pa­tri­ot, the annu­al con­test pit­ted stu­dents from Junior ROTC, cadets from the Civ­il Air Patrol and high school stu­dents from through­out the U.S. and Cana­da against sim­u­lat­ed cyberen­e­mies.

As com­peti­tors, stu­dents learn about a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent threats and how to com­bat those threats.

“We apply secu­ri­ty appli­ca­tions such as antivirus, anti­mal­ware, secu­ri­ty ana­lyz­ers and secu­ri­ty con­fig­u­ra­tions to pro­tect the com­put­ers from out­side threats,” said Kyal Lanum, an 11th-grade stu­dent and a mem­ber of the CAP Cyber­Pa­tri­ot team Wolf­pack, from the Col­orado Springs Cadet Squadron in Col­orado.

Cyberde­fense experts at the com­pe­ti­tion showed stu­dents and spec­ta­tors cas­es of just how vul­ner­a­ble the nation is to cyberthreats. Sim­ple devices, such as lap­tops and smart phones, chang­ing elec­tron­ic bill­boards and rais­ing and low­er­ing a draw bridge at the will of the device oper­a­tor are just a few of these exam­ples.

As harm­less as these exam­ples may sound, a per­son with a more mali­cious agen­da could use this type of tech­nol­o­gy to shut down pow­er grids or shut down the coolant sys­tem of a nuclear reac­tor. These threats have caused Air Force cyber offi­cials to say that a proac­tive defense is the future of keep­ing the Air Force and nation safe from these threats.

Cyber­Pa­tri­ot is one exam­ple of a proac­tive effort. The Air Force Asso­ci­a­tion-spon­sored competition’s focus is on groom­ing the nation’s youth to be the next wave in cyberde­fense. And their efforts are pay­ing off. In 2009, Cyber­Pa­tri­ot start­ed with only eight teams con­sist­ing of JROTC and CAP cadets. In 2012, more than 1,000 teams reg­is­tered and the growth is expect­ed to con­tin­ue, said Bernard K. Skoch, the com­mis­sion­er of Cyber­Pa­tri­ot and a retired Air Force brigadier gen­er­al.

The com­pe­ti­tion has at least one Air­man wish­ing he were offered the same oppor­tu­ni­ty.

“When I was in high school, this is the kind of com­pe­ti­tion that I would have loved to be a part of,” said Air­man 1st Class Jacob Coburn, a 23-year-old radio oper­a­tor with the 89th Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Squadron at Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facil­i­ties Wash­ing­ton, Md. “They did­n’t have this kind of stuff back then.”

In Coburn’s opin­ion, intro­duc­ing teens to cyberde­fense at this stage in their life is impor­tant, and this con­test is doing just that. Coburn, whose broth­er, Brax­ton Allen, was a com­peti­tor, added that what the par­tic­i­pants do dur­ing Cyber­Pa­tri­ot is very sim­i­lar to real-world tasks that his squadron car­ries out every day, espe­cial­ly the mon­i­tor­ing of their com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work.

“With­in the Air Force mis­sion, clear­ly the biggest chal­lenge … is find­ing the right peo­ple,” Skoch said. “The Air Force’s mis­sion to fly and fight now includes cyber­space. They need tal­ent just like every enter­prise does, and I think Cyber­Pa­tri­ot is groom­ing that tal­ent at the high school age.”

In its brief exis­tence, Cyber­Pa­tri­ot has also allowed teens to get involved in cyberde­fense at unex­pect­ed lev­els, and it has already made its mark on the Air Force. For exam­ple, mem­bers of this year’s win­ning team in the open divi­sion, from Alamo Acad­e­mies in San Anto­nio, cur­rent­ly serve as interns, and full-fledged fed­er­al civil­ians, as part of the 67th Net­work War­fare Wing at Joint Base San Anto­nio-Lack­land, Texas.

“Every­one has per­formed above expec­ta­tion,” said Jacob Stauf­fer, the 33rd Net­work War­fare Squadron Intru­sion Foren­sic Sec­tion chief and intern­ship pro­gram super­vi­sor for the 67th NWW at JB Lack­land.

Stauf­fer cit­ed a few exam­ples of how the interns have stood out. One intern, work­ing in the inci­dents response sec­tion, dis­cov­ered infor­ma­tion that led to an inves­ti­ga­tion and even­tu­al­ly an offi­cial inci­dent being opened dur­ing his first week on the job. Anoth­er intern, work­ing in the mis­sion assur­ance divi­sion, has been nom­i­nat­ed to go to the Air Force Acad­e­my.

Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty is a huge issue for the Air Force and the gov­ern­ment as a whole, Stauf­fer said. Teach­ing high school stu­dents these com­put­er-relat­ed func­tions and the pos­i­tive aspects of the func­tions, as opposed to the more mis­chie­vous ones, is very impor­tant.

“Com­put­er net­work oper­a­tions is one of those bat­tles that we must start fight­ing now,” said Stauf­fer.

From intern­ships to cyberde­fense careers, Stauf­fer believes the Cyber­Pa­tri­ot com­peti­tors will be held in high regard as they pur­sue a future in cyber­se­cu­ri­ty.

“Not only is this a tech­ni­cal com­pe­ti­tion, it’s also a study in lead­er­ship,” said CAP Capt. Bill Blatch­ley, the coach of the CAP Cyber­Pa­tri­ot team Wolf­pack.

Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty will con­tin­ue to be an inte­gral part of a grow­ing depen­dence on tech­nol­o­gy. Accord­ing to cyber­se­cu­ri­ty indus­try lead­ers, a proac­tive approach will be key to the secu­ri­ty of the infor­ma­tion safe­guard­ed with­in the net­works. Through this approach, the Air Force will con­tin­ue to improve its tac­tics, and com­pe­ti­tions like Cyber­Pa­tri­ot will help pave the way.

“Cyber­Pa­tri­ot is about build­ing the work force that can feed not only the Unit­ed States Air Force, but can feed every ele­ment of our econ­o­my, every ele­ment of our nation,” Skoch said.

If the Air Force is set up in a proac­tive envi­ron­ment, it can take advan­tage of what it under­stands about its net­work and its adver­saries, said Maj. Gen. Suzanne Vautrinot, the com­man­der of 24th Air Force and Air Force Net­work Oper­a­tions at JB Lack­land. This can lead to supe­ri­or­i­ty in defend­ing the nation’s part of cyber­space.

“You can be proac­tive in the defense, and if you are proac­tive in the defense, I guar­an­tee it is a game chang­er,” Vautrinot said.

Source:
U.S. Air Force

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →