Participants in exercise Cyber Shield 17 completed an International Society of Automation course in cybersecurity design and maintenance as part of the exercise at Camp Williams, Utah.
The National Guard exercise, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Reserve, began with a week of classroom training that included several certification courses in cyber defense. These included ISA courses to prepare students for cybersecurity expert certificate testing, and concluded with a practical exercise that challenged their abilities to correct systems that have been sabotaged.
"Intentional tampering of automation control systems is what the National Guard has to be able to fix," said Marco (Marc) Ayala, of aeSolutions, one of the course instructors.
Class participant Maj. Christine Pierce, a Pennsylvania National Guard Defensive Cyber Operations Elements team chief, said the practical exercise reflected the anxiety of a real-world hacking scenario.
"We had the pressure of the plant manager losing money," Pierce said. "You want to hurry and get these things operational, because you see the real effects."
Pierce said she was able to overcome the challenge by returning her focus to the course material.
"We didn't know where to start," Pierce said. "We took a deep breath, went back to what we learned this week and methodically applied the incident response procedures."
Heidi Cooke, a senior learning consultant with ISA, explained that the purpose of the course is to train Soldiers, airmen and participants from civilian agencies to protect industrial operations from cyber attack.
"A lot of vendors use remote access to support their customers," Cooke said. "That is a way for somebody else to come in the door and shut down a process, and someone else is now controlling the process."
Participant Sgt. 1st Class James Medlock, a National Guard member with the Texas Cyber Protection Team and satellite network engineer with Wellbore Technologies, explained that developing and maintaining cyber defense systems are critical tasks for domestic security in the Information Age.
"We know how to take a hill and control the sea and the air," Medlock said. "Industrial control systems is an area of our critical national infrastructure we must defend."
Medlock said the course will help his career because by enabling him to earn a qualification that is highly valued in the civilian cyber workplace.
"It's going to make my resume more competitive and make me more confident, because I've had the hands-on experience," Medlock said.
Cooke said she believes the course was a success, judging by student comments that expressed appreciation for the teaching style and teaching aides.
"When we looked at the student evaluations at the end of the day, the feedback was positive," Cooke said. "They were able to do hands-on labs at their pace because the instructors were very attentive and available to them."