NEWS | Sept. 1, 2020

W.Va. Guard participates in cybersecurity tabletop exercise

By Edwin Wriston West Virginia National Guard

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Members of the West Virginia National Guard’s Defensive Cyber Operations Element are participating in a multiday tabletop exercise hosted by the West Virginia Office of Technology to address cybersecurity threats.

Cybersecurity is a growing area of effort across government and private sector organizations as society grows ever more reliant on computerized, web-based cyber functions, including in banking, utilities management, education and elections.

The four-day virtual and in-person tabletop exercise seeks to bring together players from multiple state and local agencies, including school systems from around the state, to address potential and existing threats to cyber networks and systems. These attacks can include malware, ransomware, distributed denial-of-service, phishing and other disruptive efforts.

“Our primary goals for participation include hammering out our full concept of operations in coordination with the Office of Technology in the event of an attack, and to refine our existing standard operating procedures for response,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jody Ogle, a cyber space operations officer and WVNG’s director of communications in cyber programs. “Additional goals include refining our processes within the state's incident response plan, to solidify mutual aid agreements, and to provide new members of the DCEO an opportunity to meet all the key state-level players involved in cyber response.”

He said building relationships before an incident makes it easier to respond to any attack quickly and efficiently.

The WVNG has played an active role in cybersecurity statewide and nationally since 2016 when the West Virginia secretary of state asked for help with elections security. In 2018, WVNG members served a tour with the Defense Department's United States Cyber Command to work on state and federal threat intelligence sharing. The final draft of that document was released earlier this year for implementation by the entire National Guard, establishing best practices, policies and protocols for cyber threat efforts.

Last week, 15 members of the WVNG’s Army Integrated Training and Education Command and the DCEO graduated from a Certified Ethical Hacking course, also referred to as white-hat hacking. Ethical hackers work with agencies to find and correct security vulnerabilities that malicious hackers could exploit.

“Cybersecurity is a function that we take incredibly seriously in the Guard, both on the preventative and response sides,” said Ogle. “Working with and training with our partners across the state to prevent and/or respond to cyberattacks is a mission we are both proud of and are passionate about.”