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NEWS | Sept. 1, 2022

New York National Guard Cyber Experts Learn from Brazilian Counterparts

By Eric Durr, New York National Guard

BRASILIA, Brazil - When the Brazilian Cyber Defense Command showcased itself to representatives of 15 nations Aug. 18 as part of its Cyber Guardian Exercise, two New York Army National Guard Soldiers represented the United States.

Capt. Andrew Carter, the information systems officer for the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters battalion, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nefertiti Stokes, a 173rd Cyber Protection Team member, spent three days with Brazilian computer security excerpts in Brasilia, the country’s capital.

The visit was conducted as part of the State Partnership Program relationship the New York National Guard has had with the Brazilian armed forces since 2019.

Their role, Carter said, was to determine what types of cyber operations training the New York National Guard’s computer security experts could conduct with their Brazilian counterparts.

Carter and Stokes work daily in computer-related fields when they are not drilling with their units. Carter works full-time for the New York National Guard’s information section. Stokes is a civilian employee of the Marine Corps working in computer security full-time when she is not on duty with the joint New York-New Jersey cyber team.

Brazil’s Ministry of Defense Cyber Defense Center oversees cybersecurity across all sectors.

What they learned, Carter said, is that Brazil relies on its military computer security specialists to protect both military information systems and those of Brazilian civilian industry professionals.

This is very similar to U.S. Cyber Command’s emphasis on keeping military networks as well as critical infrastructure across the nation safe from computer attacks, Carter said. The difference, he noted, is that because Brazil does not have a National Guard equivalent, the Brazilians have full-time military personnel working with civilian cyber professionals to deal with cyber threats.

Carter said the United States relies on full-time personnel and people like Stokes, who works in cybersecurity as a civilian, to put their civilian-acquired knowledge to work.

The three-day visit gave the two New Yorkers a chance to see different facets of Brazil’s communications and signals effort.

On the first day, they visited Brazil’s equivalent of the U.S. Army Signal School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Carter said he was impressed and amazed to find out the Brazilians were still teaching the use of Morse code to encrypt messages. The U.S. Army stopped teaching the dots and dashes of Morse code in 2015. But the Brazilians see this as another form of secure communications, using the code to transmit sets of numbers that make up encrypted messages, Carter said.

On the second day of the visit, Carter and Stokes participated in the Cyber Guardian Exercise Distinguished Visitor’s Day. The Brazilians used the model of regional and urban infrastructure, including dams and power grids, to demonstrate how a cyberattack could stop industry and transportation.

Stokes and Carter had prepared a New York National Guard cyber capabilities briefing for the third day.

Their Brazilian hosts were pleased to learn that many of the operational frameworks used by the CPT are very similar to what was being taught at CDCiber, and intrigued by the idea of people with constantly updated civilian skills working on cybersecurity issues, Carter said.

The Brazilians expressed an interest in learning more about how the New York National Guard conducts cyber operations. Carter said there could also be an opportunity for New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen to attend a two-week cyber operations school taught by the Brazilians.