#school | #ransomware | Cybersecurity is focus of forum in Manchester and ‘war games’ in Pembroke


Published: 3/6/2020 5:49:58 PM

Modified: 3/6/2020 5:49:44 PM

It seems like hardly a day passes without news of another ransomware attack shutting down a business or a data breach releasing personal information into the dark web or a local government site being knocked offline by malware. 

Cybersecurity has transitioned from a minor part of security into a central component of it, which is one reason that the state’s national guard has been holding the digital version of combat training for a half-dozen years.

“It’s almost like war games but in cyberspace,” said Lt. Col. Woody Groton, chief information officer of the New Hampshire Army National Guard. 

“We work on a virtual network that replicates SCADA and ICS,” Groton said, giving acronyms for industrial control systems. “Then we have the bad guys, an opposing force, a red team, doing the actual exercise” and see how best to react.

The Army and Air Force national guards will be running the exercise May 11 in the Guard’s training center in Pembroke. Groton will be discussing it next week as part of the annual New Hampshire Cybersecurity Symposium at Manchester Community College.

The three-day symposium has been held for a number of years by the school’s cybersecurity program. Sessions discuss topics like cybersecurity in defense and health care industries as well as advice from police on how to lower your risk at home.

Groton said the National Guard has gotten into the cybersecurity as a natural extension of their work.

“Just like the National Guard is there for a natural disaster, we’re also there for a man-made disaster,” he said. “If there’s a flood in Keene, say, and it exceeds the capacity of the city of Keene to respond, they go to the state and the National Guard will respond. It’s the same thing with cyberspace.”

Being a group of citizen soldiers is also helpful because it lets them draw on expertise that the full-time military can’t always keep.

“Active duty is struggling a little bit with retaining people,” Groton said. He gave the example of a “17-Charlie in the Army,” the designation for a cyber operations specialist.

“They get very expensive training, top-secret clearance and real-world experience. … After their four-year enlistment they can quadruple their salary outside the military,” he said. “However, that soldier could join the Guard or Reserve and continue to serve while working.”

That’s certainly the case in New Hampshire, he said. “We have a warrant officer in the Guard who works for Bank of N.H., another owns his own software company. Microsoft, Oracle, Google, people for all those in the Guard.”

Groton said that while the primary training audience for the May exercise are members of the military, “we also work closely with state government and critical infrastructure, especially the electrical and water utility sector.”

As for the war game training, Groton said this is part of a national-level exercise being run by FEMA.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)


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