Army cyber protection force looks to show what it can do

A glimpse into the Army's cyber mission force will show the nation's biggest strengths and challenges when it comes to cybersecurity: education and awareness.

Unlike network operations, which focus on strengthening the network against a myriad of threats, cyber protection teams "hunt for adversaries" and "are looking for someone who does not want to be found in our network," Army Cyber Commander Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone said at an Oct. 11 media roundtable at the Association of the U.S. Army conference. "That's a core skill we train for."

The Defense Department is moving toward a persistent cyber training environment that will roll out later this year, he said, and will "provide a capability to do mission rehearsal and an ability to test our tools and capabilities.

Maj. Josh Rykowski, a cyber protection team lead based in Ft. Gordon, Ga., explained that Army cyber protection teams function as the rapid-response force that can enhance a local unit's capabilities.

"We come in for a short duration with a threat focus and we try to assist them in closing the gaps consistent with that particular threat," he said.

The Army is working on deploying another 21 teams in the reserve force, 11 in the National Guard and 10 in the Army Reserve. Each team will have about 39 personnel with 80 percent military and 20 percent civilian.

Education is another primary function. "The biggest piece is the educational piece," said Lt. Alvaro Luna, tactical offensive cyber operations planner from the 780th military intelligence brigade in Ft. Meade, Md. "We could go out there and do a bunch of things, do a social media suppression, take down a network, but if the commander doesn't correlate that with an action on the battlefield then it's not really effective."

The goal, he said, is to begin letting the unit and commanders know what the Army cyber teams can offer.

"It's really building that early relationship with those commanders so that they know how you process information; they know what you bring," Luna said. "Showing up to [the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, Calif.] with everything is too late."

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