Cyber Security: Who is Keeping Our Networks Safe?

You may remember Stuxnet, the virus believed to be developed to cripple Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz. You may also remember the Wikileaks phenomenon, which released hundreds of classified State Department 'cables' embarrassing U.S. and foreign diplomats across the globe. You may even remember President Obama calling the cyber threat “one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face.”

Whether or not you understand all the technological jargon, cyber security is a burgeoning field; Congress alone has over twenty ‘Cyber Security’ related bills floating around for consideration.  

Defense News recently published an article stressing the need for offensive cyber missions – that is, manpower focused on trying “to get around things, to look for holes, to say ‘What are the deviations from the norm?’” Basically the need to recruit more highly trained personnel to hack into our cyber networks to learn of weaknesses and better develop our own cyber-defenses.

So, how does the Guard fit into all this? Well, the key is the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, which stated that the future of the Reserve Component capabilities will be applied operationally. These duties include:  

  • maintaining awareness of global threats and opportunities, including the capabilities, values, intent, and decision-making of potential adversaries 
  • protecting DOD infrastructure in space and cyberspace

The Air National Guard already has numerous intelligence, air support, and engineering squadrons, combat communications groups, as well as individuals that detect, monitor, and defend against cyber threats. The ANG’s Cyber Warfare and Information Operations support federal and state-level agencies, the Air Force, and combatant commanders. They conduct cyberspace force application, cyberspace defense, cyberspace support, and influence operations and relate planning activities.

Likewise, the Army National Guard Headquarters leads developments occurring in the emerging Army Cyberspace Operations initiatives that are associated with the ARNG. Operations Division – Information Operations program oversight follows the traditional five pillars of Joint Information Operations to include Military Deception, Military Information Support Operations, Operations Security, Electronic Warfare and Computer Network Operations. The Army Guard fielded the Department of Defense Host Based Security System ArcSight, full time network logging and monitoring devices, retina vulnerability scanners, and McAfee Intrusion Protection Devices.

So as Congress and the Defense Department continue to look to broaden our cyber defenses, they need  look no further than the growing expertise of the National Guard.

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