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Guard Soldiers educate tomorrow’s cyber-security experts

By Spc. Alec Dionne | 122nd Public Affairs Operations Center | July 12, 2018

SEATAC, Wash. - A Soldier opens his laptop, and the attack begins. Spc. Sunia Laulile, Alpha Company, 156th Information Operations Battalion, 56th Theater Information Operations Group, types efficiently, shutting down the opposing system. Malware is installed, the system is crippled, the mission is a success.

This was not a real world attack however, but an exercise July 6 at the International Collegiate Cyber Defense Invitational at Highline College in Des Moines, Washington.

Washington Army National Guard Soldiers from the 56th Theater Information Operations Group, Joint Force Headquarters, and Headquarters and Headquarters Compnay, 181st Brigade Support Battalion, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, were invited to the exercise to help train the nation's next generation of cyber-security professionals.

"Our team did extremely well. They showed how the security flaws in computer systems and networks can be exploited," said Capt. Sameer Puri, 56th Theater Information Operations Group.

The Soldiers acted as the opposing force during the invitational, and students acted as the network's defenders. Students were graded on how well they protected their computer systems from the Soldiers' cyber-attacks. At the end of each iteration, the Soldiers and students came together to discuss how to better improve their response to the attacks.

This is valuable training for Guard Soldiers too.

"We have more freedom of execution here," said Laulile.

Events like these give cyber-professional Soldiers the operational freedom to practice their skills in real time. Similar to a live fire exercise. They get to break the mold and experiment with new ways to disrupt a computer network.

"Cyber Exercises like ICCDI helped to build better cyber resilience and enhances the mutual cooperation between the Washington National Guard and academia in the field of cyber security," said Puri.