HomeNewsArticle Display

National Guard cyber teams key asset in cyber defense

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Thomas Schoening, a cyber transport systems specialist assigned to the 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard, oversees server room operations at the Cheyenne Air National Guard Base, Wyo., Nov. 1, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Jon Alderman)

Airman 1st Class Thomas Schoening, cyber transport systems specialist, assigned to the 153rd Airlift Wing, Wyoming Air National Guard, oversees server-room operations at the Cheyenne Air National Guard Base, Wyo., Nov. 1, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Jon Alderman)

ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) --

National Guard members continue to be an integral element in cyber defense, the Guard’s top general said during a recent roundtable discussion at the Pentagon on the cyber mission set.

“When I first joined the National Guard, cyber was not part of our vocabulary,” said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, National Guard Bureau chief. “Now, it’s one of our daily battlegrounds.”

More than 3,900 troops make up the Guard’s cyber element, Lengyel said, adding that includes traditional part-time units as well as full-time units that work directly for U.S. Cyber Command.

“The Air National Guard always provides two (cyber protection teams), and on the Army side, the Army (National Guard) always provides one, that are continuously mobilized and doing duty for U.S. Cyber Command and the cyber mission force,” Lengyel said.

Guard cyber teams have also responded in support of local and state authorities, including earlier this year in Texas and Louisiana.

“In May, one county – Jackson County – got hit with ransomware,” said Army Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, Texas National Guard adjutant general. “It disrupted county services. People weren’t able to transfer property, the police doing a background check weren’t able to pull up that information.”

County officials realized that a response to the attack was beyond the scope of their information technology staff and looked to the Guard for assistance, Norris said.

“We had people out there within 12 hours to do an assessment on what had happened and to get that county back online,” Norris said. “We helped them get to a recovery point where their IT professionals could come in and get the county back to where it could deliver services.”

That, it turned out, was just a dress rehearsal. A month later, 22 Texas counties were hit with ransomware attacks, and again the Texas Guard was called out.

“Immediately the (Texas) Department of Emergency management called over to us and we got people on the phone to assess and figure out where to go to start (responding to the attack),” Norris said.

From there, a team of 50 or so Soldiers and Airmen responded to get the networks back online, Norris said, adding it took about two weeks to get everything back to normal.

Jackson County, the county hit in the May attack, was also one of the 22 counties hit in June, but the attackers were quickly stopped.

“They did not get past (the network) firewall,” Norris said, adding that was in large part because of measures Guard members had put in place after the earlier attack.

Similar attacks occurred in Louisiana in July. Those attacks affected five parishes – the Louisiana equivalent to a county – and 54 schools.

“It was two weeks prior to school (starting for the year),” said Kenneth Donnelly, Louisiana Cyber Security Commission executive director . “Mainly it affected the parish school board systems for (grades) K through 12.”

Louisiana National Guard cyber teams were called in.

“The governor declared a state of emergency, which allowed us to expand our (response) capability,” Donnelly said. “We were able to use those (Guard) assets and were able to build the capability and capacity in Louisiana to get on the ground quickly and recover the parishes’ school systems before school started.”

The response also mitigated attacks in other parts of Louisiana.

“We were able to prevent seven other parishes from being severely impacted by the ransomware attack,” Donnelly said.

That was, in part, because of assistance from the Louisiana Guard.

“This is the new norm,” he said. “We currently have ongoing two additional cyberattacks that took place recently and we have the same resources on the ground right now.”

Because of that “new norm,” cyberattacks are often treated no differently than a hurricane or other large-scale disaster and the Guard is brought in to assist, Lengyel said.

“When they first developed cyber, people thought there really is no domestic mission for a governor to use a cyber force in a state capacity,” he said. “Now, we’re seeing how wrong that could be.”

But unlike a natural disaster, Guard cyber teams can be brought in ahead of time to mitigate possible attacks and were key to doing just that during the recent elections.

“In 2018 the Guard was on duty in 27 states either monitoring the state.gov networks or on standby in case something happened,” Lengyel said.

Plans are already underway for similar support during the 2020 elections.

As part of that, Guard teams would begin by assessing the network for any vulnerabilities, said Army Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, Washington National Guard adjutant general, which has a large cyber element.

After that, Daugherty said, any vulnerabilities would be addressed.

“This is all side by side with Department of State IT people who do the keyboard entry,” he said.

Finally, if needed, a team would then monitor the network.

“We (would) have that team on hand leading up to and during the election to monitor the network for any bad actors who may be trying to hack in, doing whatever we can to keep that from happening,” Daugherty said.

If any hacking activity were to occur, it would then be turned over to law enforcement officials, Lengyel said.

“Once we find a crime scene in the cyber domain, we turn it over to law enforcement or call in the FBI,” he said.

The Guard’s ability to operate in the cyber domain is just another skill set Guard members bring to the fight, whether overseas or at home, Lengyel said.

“It’s the role of the men and women of the National Guard to be able to offer these kinds of services to our governors to respond to a domestic event,” he said. “Whether it’s a hurricane, a fire or a cyber event, it’s just another military skill set we can transfer into use.”

Engage

Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: .@PANationalGuard Medical Airmen with the 171st Air Refueling Wing honed lifesaving skills as part of an Ability To Survi…
Twitter
Registration for Hack-A-Sat 2, which enables security researchers of all levels to focus their skills and creativit… https://t.co/nxUKmkhiTA
Twitter
The Installation Resilience Operations Center prototype is a game-changing solution for enhancing base security, em… https://t.co/ATHhejDoQJ
Twitter
“It’s important that you will be able to lead through complex challenges,” @GenCQBrownJr said. “I really want to ch… https://t.co/UI86usPVtO
Twitter
VCSAF Gen David W. Allvin visited various @AFResearchLab facilities to see how the 711th Human Performance Wing is… https://t.co/F5tpk0Mabc
Twitter
Invisible Wounds: Signs and Symptoms The Invisible Wounds Initiative, an @AFW2 Support Program, leads in creating… https://t.co/4SeYhlQuua
Twitter
Maggie Gee and Hazel Ying Lee were two of the first Chinese-American aviators to join the Women Airforce Service Pi… https://t.co/txl43oLLRs
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: Listen to SrA Francis Andrew, assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, tell his story as one of the 'Lost Boys of Sudan.…
Twitter
#ICYMI Aircraft loaded with #COVID19 supplies left @Travis60AMW, California, bound for India. This shipment was jus… https://t.co/YdYFniZyok
Twitter
“While there are a lot of people who have done great things in the #AirForce, we wanted to recognize diversity and… https://t.co/bTH2aP5emk
Twitter
“It is a real honor, and I wish I could be there in person,”@GenCQBrownJr said during his acceptance speech. “I’d r… https://t.co/DH5Ou832K5
Twitter
RT @RealAFOSI: 1/ OSI's Guam based Detachment 602 recently spent time strengthening relationships throughout the Commonwealth of the North…
Twitter
RT @grandslamwing: Mobilizing to assist - anywhere, anytime. Members from #TeamAUAB aboard a C-17 from @TeamCharleston took off to assist t…
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: .@HiAirGuard Airmen deployed to California to participate in exercise Sentinel Response 2021 alongside @CalGuard Airmen a…
Twitter
.@GenCQBrownJr and @cmsaf_official discuss the best ways to help Airmen's talent to bloom. #Airmen #Questionshttps://t.co/GGDHJkiOOb
Twitter
Airmen at the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas, demonstrated an autonomous machine solution for an @AFWERX innovation init… https://t.co/5ZGnnOPfYi
Twitter
During a quarterly senior leader review, @KesselRunAF & @USAF_ACC leaders agreed the Air Operations Center Weapon S… https://t.co/FnXQYIiG86
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: #PublicServiceRecognitionWeek starts today! This is a chance to acknowledge the civil servants who dedicate themselves t…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,346,618
Follow Us