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Nebraska ANG cybersecurity team keeps network safe

Nebraska Air National Guard members of the 155th Air Refueling Wing Cyber Security office at Lincoln Air Force base, Nebraska, Nov. 7, 2021. Cybersecurity specialists ensure the security of computer networks and online communications from programming to hardware.

Nebraska Air National Guard members of the 155th Air Refueling Wing Cyber Security office at Lincoln Air Force base, Nebraska, Nov. 7, 2021. Cybersecurity specialists ensure the security of computer networks and online communications from programming to hardware.

LINCOLN AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. – In 2021 alone, America's energy sector, power plants, food supply, water supply, health care, law enforcement and defense sector have all come under cyberattack.

Cyberattacks threaten our key infrastructure almost daily, and the National Guard plays an important role in defending networks against attacks, as well as mitigating the effects of an attack.

"Cyberattacks are usually done by a hacker or malicious actor with the intent to cause damage, disrupt operations or disabling our systems temporarily," said Capt. Lucas Brown, director of operations for the Communications Flight, 155th Air Refueling Wing. "We keep up to date with the latest tech news so that we are always ready."

There are many ways Communications Flight keeps the 155th Air Refueling Wing network safe, such as weekly vulnerability assessment scans, monitoring of day-to-day use policies, account usage and providing annual training to all members.

Master Sgt. John Garza, wing cybersecurity office manager, oversees the network safety and security daily by assessing the threats. Once a computer system is out of date or the manufacturer finds a break in the software, the cyber team runs patches on those machines for updates.

"We have a system that says you have 50 out of 1,000 machines that need to be patched," Garza said. "We then scan the network, and I tell the focal point guys they need to patch these type of machines.

"It's nice having a process in place that fixes most of the problems, but there's also lots of reading done on the side in order to keep up with current technology," said Garza.

The Air Force provides these policies and procedures to guide the processes and streamline the expectations of assets controlled by the Communications Flight.

"We are required by the Air Force to follow life-cycle management, so we can identify old assets and cycle them through to get the latest and greatest," Garza said. "We're the gatekeepers in making sure everything can run efficiently for everyone."

Brown said he encourages new tactics when training to fight new threats.

"We're always looking at different routes and we don't want people sticking to the same training plans," Brown said. "That way, we can look at different threats and ways to mitigate them. Some of our smartest and brightest Airmen are our younger ones."