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Team Scott: Zero in on cybersecurity attacks

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, ILL. -- As we begin National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some recent changes to the national cyberspace policy and what it might mean for us at Scott AFB.

I recently wrapped up my first assignment to the Pentagon, working cyberspace policy on the Joint Staff. My time there over the past two years was marked by a large number of high profile cyberattacks as well as attempts by foreign nations to influence U.S. elections.

Those events made cyberspace operations and cybersecurity extremely popular topics of discussion and debate in our nation’s capital. In the aftermath of those events, on Sept. 18, the Department of Defense released a new, classified DoD Cyber Strategy. The same week, the Trump Administration released its new National Cyber Strategy. I highly encourage everybody with access to read both documents.

As you read them, you’ll recognize that America’s strategy in cyberspace is amid a major course correction. These documents place a renewed emphasis on strategic competition with our most capable adversaries and a much greater willingness to conduct offensive cyberspace operations than we have in the past. This shift in emphasis toward great power rivalry and away from the war on terror that has been the central focus of my 17 years in the Air Force has two fairly significant implications for Team Scott.

First, as we compete against much more capable nations (who understand the incredible contributions of our global mobility enterprise) we will be challenged in ways we haven’t been in the relatively permissive air environments of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Second, before our adversaries ever challenge us in the air “over there,” they will challenge us in cyberspace right here.

Just as our society and economy have grown dependent on information technology, our mobility mission at Scott has become increasingly dependent on cyberspace. Our adversaries understand this and will continue to try to exploit that dependency.

More than ever, cybersecurity awareness is essential to the success of our mission. Your cyber professionals at Scott work tirelessly to defend the network but our success depends in great measure on you and the actions you take every single day. It might not seem like it, nestled here in the corn fields of Illinois, but you are a very attractive target for hackers looking to hinder our mobility mission.

So as we take part in National Cybersecurity Awareness Month throughout October, take some time to educate yourself and others on cybersecurity tips and best practices:

Avoid visiting unknown websites or downloading software from untrusted sources;
Be careful of what you share on social networking sites;
Do not share passwords and do not leave unlocked systems unattended;
Monitor your accounts for suspicious activity;
Encrypt emails that contain official business, Privacy Act data, or Personally Identifiable Information like Social Security numbers.

And above all, be wary of “phishing” emails and other attempts at social engineering. According to some experts in the cybersecurity industry, nine out of every 10 cyberattacks start with a malicious email.

Vigilance at work, home, or on your mobile device, must become a way of life to protect yourself and others. There is no way to predict the damage that could be caused by a single careless user. The success of our mission at Scott depends on all of us doing our part to keep the network and the mission safe. Thank you for all that you do for Team Scott and have a great National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.