NEWS | Sept. 24, 2020

Cyber Shield 2020 tests Washington Guard cyber professionals

By Joseph Siemandel Washington National Guard

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – As cyber threats become more sophisticated, there is an increased demand on cyber professionals in the National Guard to help protect critical infrastructure in cyberspace.

The past two weeks, 10 members of the Washington National Guard took part in Cyber Shield 2020, an unclassified defensively focused tactical cyber exercise conducted virtually by the Army National Guard with assistance from the Air National Guard, Navy, Army Reserve and industry partners.

"The intent of Cyber Shield is to provide a collective training event for defensive cyber operations," said Maj. Sameer Puri, Washington Army National Guard director of information management. "It provides a collective training event for cyber forces to set the conditions for evaluation against Army/Joint standards, network defense, forensic analysis, reporting, mitigation and incident response."

This is the 10th year Cyber Shield has taken place and is part of the National Guard's ongoing effort to improve the Guard's ability to respond to real-world cyber incidents.

"Cyber shield allows our Citizen-Soldiers to cross-train and collaborate, improving proficiency in all areas of the cybersecurity domain, and the best part of the exercise is building technical skills and fostering relations," said Capt. JoJohn Quinata, the team's battle captain for the Cyber Shield Exercise.

Many participants in the exercise were members of the Washington Army National Guard's G6 office who focus on information technology and the organization's network security. This year's exercise also included two members from the Washington Air National Guard because of their expertise in industrial control systems and host analysis.

"Cyber Shield gave us the best opportunity to come together as a defensive cyber operations team, practicing the scenarios based on real-world lessons learned," said Puri. "This year's scenario also focused on information operations, especially misinformation and disinformation activities using social media. As an information operations officer, I feel that this is a great step to move Cyber Shield to the next level of cyber defense exercise because our adversaries are using cyber as a vector for information operations attacks."

Since July, a seven-member team from the Washington National Guard and Washington State Guard have teamed with staff from the secretary of state's office to coordinate cybersecurity support for the upcoming elections. In 2018, elections systems were deemed "critical infrastructure" by the Department of Homeland Security and were part of a nationwide effort to upgrade security.

"The more prepared we are to protect our state and nation, whether it is fighting fires, responding to an earthquake or stopping cyberattacks, it makes us that much stronger," said Puri. "Our team was so happy to be able to participate in this exercise."