Cyber Yankee exercise trains Conn. Guard in virtual threats

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Steven Tucker
  • 103rd Airlift Wing

Airmen and Soldiers from the Connecticut National Guard joined other Guard members from throughout New England and state and federal partner agencies, for exercise Cyber Yankee, sharpening their readiness in one of today’s most dynamic battlefields—cyberspace.

The exercise trains interoperability of military and civilian agencies to combat potential cyberattacks to critical infrastructure utilities.

“The purpose of this exercise is for the military to train to interact with a mission partner that is a critical asset for the state,” said Capt. Frederick Bond, 103rd Air Control Squadron cyberspace operator and exercise Team 3 lead. “So for this exercise, we’re working with an actual municipal water company in Hartford.”

Guard members on the exercise’s “Blue Teams” worked together with utilities in real-time to combat simulated cyberattacks from the exercise’s “Red Team,” which operated from this year’s exercise host state of New Hampshire. The “Red Team” plays the role of the threat actors in the exercise scenario and stages “attacks” against the “Blue Teams” of Guard members throughout the New England states.

Cyber Guardsmen from organizations throughout the state, including the 103rd Air Control Squadron, 103rd Communications Flight, and 146th Rear Detachment, worked in several roles as part of a team at the Windsor Locks Readiness Center to identify and address these attacks.

“We received intel that potential threat actors may be using a certain capability to transfer files,” said Senior Airman Stephen LaLuna, 103rd Communications Flight cyber systems operations specialist. “We see the traffic that’s using it, that sets off a flag on our end to look deeper into that. If we determine it is malicious, we send it up the chain with our findings and recommendations to block it.”

The Guard’s cyber defense capabilities are another key asset in the state’s homeland defense mission, said, Bond.

“If a large-scale attack happened against a power company, water company, or any other critical department around the state, we would be able to get activated and help them mitigate the threat,” said Bond. “It’s similar to when a storm comes and we help remove fallen trees or shovel snow from roofs to help get critical infrastructure going again.”

The exercise provides valuable training in preparing for cyberattack scenarios, said LaLuna.

“Everything is constantly changing, so we need to adapt to the world,” said LaLuna. “This exercise allows us to learn how to identify these things as they’re being built in the real world by threat actors.”