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Rise of the cyber wingman

U.S. Air Force photo illustration.

Cyberspace adversaries attack Department of Defense computer networks every day, and Air Force officials have a goal of protecting networks from attack. In August, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz outlined steps the Air Force is taking to centralize this mission. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Every day, malicious code, worms, botnets and hooks attack Air Force computers hardware, software and the Internet. They infiltrate classified information and compromise national security. In response, Air Force officials are stepping up their mission to defend cyberspace.

Mission success is the goal of protecting networks from attack. In August, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz outlined steps Air Force officials are taking to centralize this mission. He said that those steps are just the beginning.

"To make significant progress we must also change the way we think about the cyberspace domain," General Schwartz wrote to Air Force members in a service-wide e-mail.

Cyberspace adversaries attack Department of Defense computer networks every day. They range from individual hackers, criminal organizations and terrorists to nation states. Though they aren't successful the majority of the time, they have stolen classified information from networks and computers, including future weapon systems, logistics information and Airmen's personal information.

The most common way of getting information is phishing. This attack targets the weakest link in network security: the user. It involves sending e-mails containing attachments and linked Web sites that appear legitimate. Phishing tricks Airmen into downloading malicious code which provides a door into that network or computer from remote locations. Phishing happens at work or home.

"Applying our wingmen culture in the cyberspace domain gives us a powerful advantage; every Airman is a defender in cyberspace," said Gen. C. Robert "Bob" Kehler, the commander of Air Force Space Command.

The activation of 24th Air Force Aug. 18 helped define Air Force requirements and establish training standards for cyber warriors. The next step is to educate every Airman about the cyber wingman campaign.

"We must all conduct ourselves as 'Cyber Wingmen,' recognizing that our actions and activities on the network affect every other Airman and impact our ability to execute the broader Air Force mission," General Schwartz said.

The "Rise of the Cyber Wingman" philosophy incorporates the following 10 guiding principles every Airman needs to know and use to secure cyberspace.

1. The United States is vulnerable to cyberspace attacks by relentless adversaries attempting to infiltrate our networks -- at work and at home -- millions of times a day, 24/7.
2. Our adversaries plant malicious code, worms, botnets and hooks in common Web sites, software and in hardware such as thumbdrives, printers, etc.
3. Once implanted, this code begins to distort, destroy and manipulate information, or it "phones" it home. Certain code allows our adversaries to obtain higher levels of credentials to access highly sensitive information.
4. The adversary attacks your computers at work and at home knowing you communicate with the Air Force network by e-mail or by transferring information from one system to another.
5. As cyber wingmen, you have a critical role in defending your networks, your information, your security, your teammates and your country.
6. You significantly decrease our adversaries' access to our networks, critical Air Force information, and even your personal identity, by taking simple action.
7. Do not open attachments or click on links unless the email is digitally signed, or you can directly verify the source, even if it appears to be from someone you know.
8. Do not connect any hardware or download any software, applications, music or information onto Air Force networks without approval.
9. Encrypt sensitive but unclassified and/or mission critical information. Ask your computer security administrator, or CSA, for more information.
10. Install the free Department of Defense anti-virus software on your home computer. Your CSA can provide you with your free copy.

"By embracing, understanding and applying each of these rules, we will deliver on our promise to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace," General Schwartz said.

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