JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, a global effort between the U.S. government including 16th Air Force and private industry to raise awareness about online security to protect personal information and communication tools used for work, family and friends.
“Cybersecurity is similar to electronic warfare,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Clayton Small, 16th Air Force division chief of A37/8 Operations Support. “It's a constant cat and mouse game and staying one step ahead of the adversary is paramount to ensure protection of yourself, the area you work in and the joint force.”
16th Air Force operates globally across nine wings and one center with the capabilities to engage and respond appropriately to threats today, in the future and across the competition continuum.
Online predators and foreign adversaries are trying to collect private information through common cybercrimes such as email account compromise, identity theft, ransomware, spoofing and phishing, and election crimes and security.
“In general, digital devices are all vulnerable to manipulation, surveillance, degradation and being aware of what can happen to your devices is key to digital hygiene on any network or system,” said Small. “The more sophisticated the device, new avenues of attack open and also new avenues of protection open, which must be discussed and used.”
Ways to protect yourself include enabling multi-factor authentication, strong passwords, updating software and lastly, recognizing and reporting cybercrimes.
Enabling multi-factor authentication is where you create a password and another verification factor for user identification. Almost half of the U.S. has never heard of multi-factor authentication, a simple application that can save someone from being hacked. A multi-factor authentication can be a pin, a code sent to your phone or email, or a biometric factor like a fingerprint.
Strong passwords can also secure your accounts by making it harder for hackers to guess it. Examples of strong passwords are lengthy, misspelled words with upper and lowercase letters containing special characters. Repeatable passwords should be avoided and using personal information that can be tied to you as well.
Over 80% of breaches have been due to weak passwords, that is how U.S. military cyber operators brought down ISIS. Cyber operators from U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency used a weak four-digit, repeated password from an ISIS videographer.
Foreign adversaries and online predators are consistently looking for the U.S.’s weaknesses, the easiest way to keep information secure is software updates.
“Don’t ignore application updates, they’re really important and oftentimes, threat actors exploit vulnerabilities in old software that can allow them to gain access and escalate their privileges on a system,” said Special Agent Nicholas Jobson, Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 3rd Field Investigations Squadron, Cyber Investigations and Operations Flight. “Updating your software and installing patches regularly helps mitigate the threat of your old software vulnerabilities being exploited.”
The 3rd FIS is partnered with 16th Air Force conducting investigative and counterintelligence activities in, through and beyond cyberspace vital to the nation’s interest.
“We investigate felony-level cybercriminal offenses and counter foreign intelligence cyber actors to protect the Department of Defense and the Department of the Air Force,” said Jobson. “Learn to recognize social engineering, phishing and smishing scams. If it feels suspicious, it probably is.”
To report a cybercrime to Air Force OSI’s 3rd FIS call (210) 671-5530 or 1-877-246-1453"
Special Agent Nicholas Jobson
16th Air Force personnel are uniquely positioned to support our interagency partners and allies around the world in securing our information networks and protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure against cyber threats.
Empowering Airmen with the tools necessary to combat malicious actors and foreign adversaries will ensure they’re delivering outcomes for the nation and the global information domain.