Science and Technology News

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Operation Cyber Shooter: cyber sleuths protect valuable PII

by Airman Jenna K. Caldwell
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

9/29/2015 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan.  -- A man enters an office and walks right up to an individual on a computer. He holds a gun to the victim's head and demands their personal information and records.

The victim gives it to him without a fight, and the criminal leaves with all the data. This happens every single day to individuals, except criminals are not just breaking into offices with a ski mask.

Criminals can hold people hostage and steal their personal information through accessing their computer without ever leaving the comfort of their homes. Opening emails laced with malicious spyware can leave computers susceptible to security intrusions, allowing offenders to take whatever information they want.

22nd Communications Squadron Airmen jump to the rescue. Two senior airmen created a program to combat this exact kind of harmful activity. The newest program is Operation Cyber Shooter, which was inspired by the "active-shooter" training on base that prepares Airmen for armed assailants.

The program began a year ago, and has been under the continual care of two senior airmen.

"Network administrators send phishing emails out to individual units in an attempt to trick them into opening the emails," said Senior Airman Marquis Mello, 22nd Communications Squadron network administrator. "We monitor whether or not they fall for the tricks and then record the results with non-punitive action towards the email recipient."

Every time an individual views their emails, they are susceptible to a villainous attack. Perusing the inbox, the person lets the guard down and opens a message that appears to be from a credible source, but it is not. Like Superman being stabbed with Kryptonite, the individuals security is immediately weakened. Control of the computer is lost to a phishing attempt.

Phishing emails are a computer's kryptonite. They can contain malicious software that attempts to steal an individual's personnel information.
Operation Cyber Shooter is here to combat this type of criminal activity; they are the security forces in the line of defense to fighting and protecting the cyberspace domain. They see a warning signal of a security breach, and they are off to the rescue.

Operation Cyber Shooter is like a fighter pilots contingency plan; much like how the pilot has a plan to prepare for any situation, it identifies vulnerabilities in the system and creates a plan of attack. But instead of piloting an aircraft, it's testing and toughing Airmen against cyber threats.

"These test emails are strictly for training purposes and are harmless to the receiver," said Senior Airman Thomas Koch, 22nd Communications Squadron network administrator. "A lot of the information we collect is used to implement programs that educate individuals and improve security."

Other bases have already sent out calls for help from McConnell's Operation Cyber Shooter team. They are curious about the operation and how these two Senior Airmen were able to create programs that don't cause any true harm to individual's security.

"We don't mind helping other bases," said Koch. "We are ultimately looking for some really solid improvements all around. We want everyone to be aware and conscience of the multiple ways that they can be affected directly or indirectly by security threats."

Access to reliable communications and information networks is crucial to accomplishment of the Air Force's mission. It difficult to have effective operations with criminals out to compromise security. But with the Operation Cyber Shooter now in place, network administrators have an extra power to fight cyber crime, educate Airmen and keep information safe.

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