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NEWS | April 13, 2020

NC Guard helps defend city from cyberattack

By Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jordan North Carolina National Guard

SHELBY, N.C. – The city government of Shelby, a quaint industrial town of about 20,000 nestled along rolling hills in the southwestern part of the state, was under relentless attack March 19.

North Carolina Army National Guard (NCARNG) Capt. Steven Schmidt, commander of the NCARNG 295th Signal Company and Cyber Security Response Force (CSRF), like North Carolina National Guard (NCNG) Citizen-Soldiers for more than 350 years, joined six other North Carolina National Guard Soldiers of the CSRF deployed in Shelby’s defense not on the village green, hills or forests, but in cyberspace.

Federal, state and local leaders learned of the attack and decided to bring the CSRF to the fight. By conference call, those leaders and Schmidt learned from city representatives the exact problem and what local leaders needed help with first. By the time the call was over Schmidt, who lived nearby, was on site.

“It is a lot of planning, bringing chaos under control,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt, a veteran of multiple cyber missions this year alone, selected his team of young cyber professionals, a mix of full-time NCNG Soldiers and Airmen and traditional drilling members, who have a civilian career and also serve when needed.

“I look for what talent we have across the state and bring to the table to solve the problem,” Schmidt said.

They stationed out of Shelby’s city hall to defend the city’s computer network, analyze and identify the attack and help recover lost, stolen or compromised data. The data and integrity of the network is vital for the city to provide critical services to its citizens.

“They (Shelby government) were very welcoming and have great leaders and staff,” said Schmidt.

The team swarmed over computer hardware stations, checking each for any physical vulnerability that might be exploited. Other members searched for the access point used to attack the systems from cyberspace. After a week of operations, all the city’s systems were back serving residents.

“Each incident is unique, it is very fluid,” said Schmidt.

NCNG Soldiers and Airmen for years have engaged in cyber operations, blending military training and civilian acquired skills in support of local, state and national partners in the cyber domain. There are over 300 NCNG members with unique cyber skills available for state duty.