Cyber security: Everyone's responsibility

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Timothy Bos
  • 460th Operations Support Squadron
Technology has simultaneously enabled huge efficiencies across the Department of Defense while also creating potential vulnerabilities on DOD networks. Many of us cannot imagine performing our jobs without computers, and younger Airmen have always had computers to aid in the performance of their duties. Computers have become as commonplace and as expected as electricity and water.

As many have likely experienced, direct, physical connection is no longer required to connect to the DOD "grid." Wi-Fi hotspots and virtual private network connections via commercial internet service providers have enabled global access to assorted DOD systems regardless of the user's physical location. Adversaries - nation-state actors, terrorist groups, and even non-malicious hackers - have various potential access points into DOD networks.
Additionally, the same unclassified computers we use to conduct official business are typically the same computers for tasks like reviewing our personnel records, conducting online research, checking the news and weather, or making a hotel reservation for an upcoming temporary duty assignment. DOD users, whether they realize it or not, are basically on the front lines of cyber warfare every time they use a DOD computer. Fortunately, they aren't all that stands between the nefarious actor on the outside and all the sensitive information on the inside.

DOD firewalls, updated virus detection programs and other cyber security tools are always present on DOD computers and networks. However, the threats are continually evolving and the patching of computer vulnerabilities will always be a never-ending effort.

Many have probably heard cyberspace has become the fifth warfighting domain or dimension in addition to land, sea, air and space. The startling difference between those other domains and the cyber domain is that all cyber users are also dual-hatted as cyber-defenders. This warfighter role is no longer the sole purview of the Soldier with a rifle or the pilot flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Every single person who has a DOD computer account -- from the commander to the administrative assistant to the medical technician to the supply clerk to the base librarian -- is also responsible for defending it.

This defense is accomplished by first recognizing and understanding you are a cyber-defender regardless of your specific occupation, and the threats are real and persistent. A strong defense is also accomplished by remaining in a continuous state of preparedness - similar to how security forces members continually train and practice to defend the base perimeter - through cyber awareness and information protection training, as well as adherence to cyber policies and procedures.

Through continued vigilance and instilling a warfighting mentality by all DOD computer users, our networks can remain secure, and we will successfully accomplish our missions.