Science and Technology News

Friday, October 26, 2012

Cyber security vital to 50 SW mission assurance

by Scott Prater
Schriever Sentinel


10/25/2012 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. As part of a nationwide campaign to inform Americans about the dangers and pitfalls of cyberspace, organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Cyber Command have issued tips and advice for people on how to safeguard their computers from viruses, worms and malware; the culprits that crash hard drives, freeze applications and render systems useless.

For Air Force installations, however, these threats can be potentially much more damaging, both in scale and importance. Cyber security then, takes on a much bigger level of significance for 50 SW units both here and around the world.

"It's easy for many of us to think back to the last time our workstation went down, or our e-mail quit working" said 50 SW IA manager Deborah Turner. "In that scenario we can't get anything done. Now, think if that scenario occurred throughout the entire network at the 50 SW; our satellite operators could potentially be looking at blank screens."

It should be no surprise to Airmen, civilians and contractors on base that the 50 SW uses computers and networks to support theater operations.

Bill Nelson, 50 SW IA security engineer, explains that despite this knowledge, the insider threat remains one of the most severe threats to 50 SW networks.

"People sometimes think, 'I can't effect anything; they're flying satellites in another building,'" Nelson said. "But, it's this type of natural complacency or a lack of self importance from just one individual that can be devastating to a network, and in turn, to the wing's mission."

Nelson explained that these attitudes can be rectified through knowledge. All people need to do is develop an understanding of how their actions can effect a network.

Turner and Nelson recommend the following guidelines for maintaining proper cyber security while on duty at Schriever.

 Remember that you are part of this fighting force and your part of the fight is to protect your end of the network.
 Every unit has an assigned Information Assurance Officer. Know who your unit IAO is.
 Report anything out of the ordinary to your IAO.
 Become familiar with the IT service response aid. (every work station in the 50 SW at Schriever should have one)
 Never plug a USB thumb drive or other similar type of device into your network computer.
 Beware of phishing attempts.
 Never click on a web link from an unknown origin.
 Review your user network access privilege agreement.


Ultimately, Nelson and Turner contend that good cyber security practices stem from people taking personal responsibility.

"When you realize we have one Air Force network we're talking one single point of failure," Turner said. "We're not there yet, but we're headed that way, hence it's important for people to understand that the perimeter of their network is expanding. Before, if someone introduced a virus via a flash drive, all they would do is slow up a local network. Now, it's possible that same action could result in mission failure for warfighters in theater."

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