Information Warfare: Career Sailors In The Cyber Sea

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October 9, 2010: The U.S. Navy is joining the air force and army in adding Cyber War job specialties for officers and enlisted personnel. This enables sailors to make a career out of Cyber War type work. Until the last decade, the military had to depend on civilian specialists, or officers who had learned Cyber War stuff on their own, for expertise in this subject. It's much better to have uniformed specialists, as they know the military, as well as the technical, side of the subject, and are better able to determine how to merge the two.

The air force remains in the lead in the development of Cyber War skills among its personnel. This year, the air force began adding Cyber War training to the many other subjects recruits are taught in boot camp. It will only be an hour or two of fundamental safety procedures. But since nearly everyone in the air force uses a computer, it is expected to make a difference. The air force is scrambling to teach all of its personnel how to use their PCs safely, and avoid getting hacked. There is continuous training for this, throughout every airman's career.

The army, like the navy, is playing catch-up with the air force in Cyber War work. However, the army is ahead in other, related, areas, like wargaming. All the services are finding that the flood of new technologies in the last two decades has caused them to beef up the specialties their officers can make a career out of.

The U.S. Air Force has also taken the lead in developing Cyber War weapons. Air force hackers are usually the first to spot new enemy intrusion techniques, and are believed to have created powerful intrusion tools and techniques themselves.

The air force has also formed two rather unique "aggressor squadrons." These do not help pilots deal with foreign aircraft and different tactics, but helps sysadmins (computer network system administrators) deal with foreigners, or Americans, trying to hack into military computers.

The 57th Information Warfare Aggressor Squadron is active duty, while the 177th Information Warfare Aggressor Squadron is a reserve outfit, part of the Kansas Air National Guard. Until 2002, the 177th Squadron flew B-1B bombers. The bomber pilots and their support personnel were replaced with Internet geeks. Both of these squadrons spend much of their time attacking American military networks, to discover vulnerabilities before a real enemy does.

The Information Warfare Aggressor role is similar to the "tiger teams" commercial firms hire (and the air force pioneered) to test the defenses of corporate networks. The two aggressor squadrons have increased the quality and quantity of attacks that can be launched against U.S. systems, to see how well the defenses hold up. Members of the squadron then analyze the results of their attack. Finally, the aggressor hackers tell the sysadmins and other concerned personnel of the target unit what they did wrong, why and how to fix it.

 

 


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