By Sgt. 1st Class Laura BerryJune 11, 2018
JOINT BASE CAPE COD, Mass. - More than 400 eyes stare at a sea of laptops in a hallway of rooms at Joint Base Cape Cod, Mass. 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 react and defend some of the areas critical networks against domestic cyber-attacks.
Many are mystified by what a cyber unit would train on and do not realize how their success could directly affect them personally.
"They look at those in cyber and think oh they are just behind computer screens not doing anything. Well those guys behind there could be the ones defending you getting your orders properly, your position, where you're located," said Cpt. Lee Ford, assistant team lead with Cyber Yankee and a member of the Defensive Cyber Operations Element (DCOE).
"Technology is engrossed in every facet of our lives, texting mom, you know, over 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 cyber-attack scenarios. These attacks are against a water supply networking system, a power company and Department of Defense network. The Blue Cell mission is to make sure the region remains operational.
The cyber teams are prepared for battle.
"We have a bunch of network monitoring software out there. A lot of it is based on skill too. You have different people that are good at certain things," Staff Sgt. Ryan Beaudoin, Rhode Island National Guard DCOE.
Many of the soldiers and airmen that are part of these 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 National Guard.
"In the event of an intrusion, I will analyze malware files," said Wong. "I'll conduct forensics, try to attempt to reverse engineer the malware and 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 their skills as a team and adapting to work in panic mode.
Parts of the team are the 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, is it money, is it, you know, political affiliation or something like that," Staff Sgt. Tara O'Keefe, military Intel analyst, 136th Cyber Company, Massachusetts National Guard.
Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crowley, an alternate communications security manager, 158th Communications Flight, assigned to the 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont National Guard, volunteered for this exercise because it is more hands on training than what he is used to.
Crowley's unit focuses on protecting the technology that effects the communications between F16 planes and the ground forces.
"It's huge, everything is integrated into cyber," said Crowley. "A lot of the operating systems that we work on, a lot of the tools that we work on. It's good to have that knowledge."
Sgt. Colton Williams, 126th Cyber Protection Battalion, Massachusetts National Guard, is a military police officer retraining into an information technology specialist.
"The level of skills of these individuals, it blows me away," said Williams of the cyber teams.
Williams believes that this training is important because the network is everywhere, and we need to be able to activate stateside and help out our citizens.
"There's no dedicated front line, so having a soldier that's capable of operating both on the home front and overseas, absolutely necessary," said Williams.