LAUREL, Md. – The Maryland National Guard’s 169th Cyber Protection Team, Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Operations Support Squadron and members of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AFBiH) participated in a joint seminar on cybersecurity on June 29.
Army Brigadier. Gen. Adam Flasch, the director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Maryland Army National Guard, observed the exercise at Pvt. Henry Costin Readiness Center in Laurel and spoke with soldiers and AFBiH members, stressing the importance of cyber military capabilities.
“Everyone is a near-even competitor in cyber,” Flasch said. “Our job is to ensure that not only are our networks protected, but that our partners’ networks are robust and able to fend off attacks. And, if attacked, to remedy and return to as much normalcy as possible as quickly as possible.
Beginning in August 2018, the 169th CPT supported military-to-military knowledge transfers and team-building events with the AFBiH. The Maryland National Guard has partnered with Bosnia and Herzegovina for nearly 30 years through the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program.
The unit helps assess the AFBiH network infrastructure and create a secure and defensible network.
“We will work to gather their SOPs, fill out their procedures manuals and help them understand the strategic part of [cybersecurity]said Warrant Officer Marcus Vendittuoli, project manager for the SPP event with the 169th CPT.
Part of the plan is to develop an incident response plan that tells network users and cyber professionals how to react when something strange starts happening to their computer or network.
“If someone recognizes that their computer is rebooting on its own, or something like that, you’re going to execute the incident response plan,” said Chief Warrant Officer James Stahecki, 169th CPT. “At this point, defenders will take action to find out what’s going on and secure the network.”
Civilian and military organizations are frequently the target of cyberattacks. These attacks can leak personal information, hold systems hostage for ransom, or even remotely control certain aspects of the system. Risks to an organization are high, so everyone in an organization needs to be a sensor and report anomalies. The 169th CPT works with many organizations to help them improve their cyber readiness.
“Everything we do where we integrate with our partners – both Estonia, a NATO ally, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as they seek to be considered by NATO – this interaction goes far beyond the technical skills being transferred,” Flasch said. “It’s the shared experience of soldiers and airmen working with their counterparts. The information shared goes both ways and we see what the other is dealing with on a daily basis.
The 169th CPT was created in 2017 to bring a more secure cybersecurity program to the Maryland National Guard. Its main mission is to help validate other cyber protection teams around the world. This includes supporting exercises such as Cyber Shield and Cyber Flag and working with Maryland State Partnership Program partners in the AFBiH and Estonian Defense Forces.