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CHIPS Articles: Tactical tips for safeguarding communications in the field

Tactical tips for safeguarding communications in the field
By William King, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade - October 26, 2017
WIESBADEN, Germany -- October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and marks the kickoff of the yearlong Army Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign. The Army campaign is designed to increase readiness through improving awareness of cyber threats and incidents as well as their impact to Army missions. The Cybersecurity Awareness efforts also highlight how Soldiers and civilians need to respond in order to safeguard the Army.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Javier Vargas, a network management technician assigned to the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, provides some tips for users operating in a tactical environment on how to help protect their equipment and our Army networks.

  1. Patching, hardening, and updating systems. Bottom line, before you take computers, radios or other computer and communications equipment out to the field, ensure it is updated with the latest software, operating system and any security patches.
  2. Properly configure baseband equipment for secure operation.
  3. "Properly implementing port security at the switch will not only prevent unauthorized network access and cross-domain violations, but will allow the team to properly manage their network resources," Vargas explained. "Proper equipment configuration also allows teams to implement accurate, reliable and repeatable network management, which sets the foundation for network defense."
  4. Be the subject matter expert on your equipment. As the primary user of any computer or other piece of communications equipment, ensure you understand fully how it operates on a day-to-day basis and are able to perform basic troubleshooting. "Understanding the normal operation, capabilities and limitations of our tactical systems will help identify any abnormal network behavior and minimize the impact any attack may have on the network," Vargas said.
  5. Have an end-user device update strategy in place. If you are going to be in a tactical environment for more than 30 days, be sure to coordinate with your local network enterprise center to receive new patches and updates for your computers.
  6. In general, follow the same network defense strategies that are implemented in garrison. Don't plug in any personal or other unauthorized devices to a networked computer. If posting on social media, don't overshare and be sure to turn off geotagging.

"When properly followed, the cybersecurity tips and strategies that are recommended for garrison are as effective in tactical environments. Users that follow posted security guidelines and best practices will help reinforce the secure networking strategies already in place," Vargas said.

Nic Hall, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade information systems security manager and a former U.S. Marine Corps infantryman, explained the importance of protecting critical network infrastructure to support Soldiers in the field.

"Protecting these networks is essential to winning the fight out there. If the ground troops can't communicate, then they can't shoot and move and accomplish their objective," Hall said.

2nd Theater Signal Brigade conducts Department of Defense Information Network operations to enable mission command in support of U.S. Army, Joint and multinational operations throughout the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation.

U.S. Army Spc. Justin Pelzer, a Command Post Node operator assigned to Charlie Company, 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, and Spc. Isaiah Myles, the CPN team chief, check the status of the network July 3, 2017 in Cincu, Romania. Myles’ CPN team is providing communications support to the 497th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 55th Sustainment Brigade, a U.S. Army Reserve unit, during exercise Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational exercise, taking place in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania July 11-20, 2017. U.S. Army photo by William B. King
U.S. Army Spc. Justin Pelzer, a Command Post Node operator assigned to Charlie Company, 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, and Spc. Isaiah Myles, the CPN team chief, check the status of the network July 3, 2017 in Cincu, Romania. Myles’ CPN team is providing communications support to the 497th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 55th Sustainment Brigade, a U.S. Army Reserve unit, during exercise Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. Army Europe-led, multinational exercise, taking place in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania July 11-20, 2017. U.S. Army photo by William B. King
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