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Taking Stock Of Our Cyber Networks
by U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Emaia Rise - December 11, 2015

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There's no natural or man-made disaster, but don't tell the staff of the Cyber Crisis Action Team there's nothing to be anxious about.

This year (2015) was a watershed moment for cybersecurity: Hackers infiltrated key military and federal government cyber networks and personal email accounts of senior government officials.

More than 30 million malicious intrusions were attempted against the Department of Defense Information Networks or .mil domain in the past year. Security clearance records were discovered stolen in April from the Office of Personnel Management's network. The CIA director's personal email account was hacked by a high school student.

Coast Guard Cyber Command Crisis Action Team Nov. 21, 2015, at the Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington. The Cyber CAT/Operation Blue Harvest Incident Command Post was established August 2015 as a unified response to mitigate known vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure throughout the Coast Guard organization. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Emaia Rise, Cyber CAT multimedia specialist)
Coast Guard Cyber Command Crisis Action Team Nov. 21, 2015, at the Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington. The Cyber CAT/Operation Blue Harvest Incident Command Post was established August 2015 as a unified response to mitigate known vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure throughout the Coast Guard organization. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Emaia Rise, Cyber CAT multimedia specialist)

In July, DOD's US Cyber Command ordered basic cyber security requirements implemented by early 2016. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft immediately directed Coast Guard Cyber Command to comply with the DOD order.

By August, the 140-member Cyber CAT Incident Command Post stood up at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, to bolster the layers of cyber defenses and enforce standardization for networked systems throughout the Coast Guard.

“We're taking the necessary steps to mitigate the known vulnerabilities of our IT infrastructure,” said Capt. Glenn Hernandez, Cyber CAT deputy incident commander.

Guided by the Coast Guard Cyber Strategy, CG Cyber Command leveraged the Incident Command System to accomplish response objectives at “operational speed."

“What the Cyber CAT is accomplishing in 72 days is what we've been trying to do within the Coast Guard in the past 10 years,” said Rear Adm. Marshall B. Lytle, Cyber CAT incident commander. “We're getting closer to standardization, compliance and configuration management.”

Cyber CAT's response include physical security space assessments and deploying teams of IT specialists, known as Cyber Discipline Tiger Teams or Tiger Teams, who are bringing Coast Guard units into cyber compliance. Checking for vulnerabilities, Tiger Teams are testing and scanning the security of all Web-based interfaces and applications interfacing the Coast Guard unclassified network.

As the Cyber CAT moves forward to sustainment and culture change, commands are being educated on their responsibility to the Coast Guard network infrastructure.

“The need to secure Coast Guard networks is a responsibility and a burden that each and every one of us share,” said Capt. James Cash, Cyber CAT operations section chief, analogizing the response to setting general quarters aboard a Coast Guard Cyber-Cutter. “As a part of the cybersecurity team, our responsibility is to make sure that the cutter is defended.”

One key element to enforce a heightened cybersecurity posture is to instill the importance of cyber awareness.

“History has shown that the biggest threat within any given information systems are our end users,” Chief Warrant Officer Eric Wilson, Tiger Team network switch lead said. “They have the ability to cause harm if they don't take cyber threats seriously.”

“Our cyber network is a utility; we expect it to be ‘on' all the time,” said Cmdr. Amy Grable, Enterprise Information Systems Infrastructure (EISI) Product Line manager at Telecommunications and Information Systems Command (TISCOM) in Alexandria, Virginia. “No one notices except when it stops working.”

Despite work unseen or unrecognized; the Cyber CAT's tireless efforts will diminish anxieties when Coast Guard units reach compliance and when each network user takes stock to protect the integrity of our operational domain.

By U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Emaia Rise, Cyber CAT multimedia specialist
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2015

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