The threat of cyberwarfare continues to intensify and refine itself with each passing day. As Composite Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) fast approaches, Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) must prepare themselves for the threats associated with deployment, which starts while pierside.
Ike’s cybersecurity division (CS-2) considers the ship’s digital safety a vital asset against global adversaries, and they are taking extra measures to ensure the security of the ship and the Navy.
“Imagine if we were under attack and our onboard weapons systems couldn’t fire because a simple virus had crashed that network,” said Information Systems Technician 1st class Joshua Struikman, leading petty officer of CS-2. “This is why we don't allow USB devices to be plugged into DoD computers, filter internet traffic, and block websites.”
Cybersecurity is the state or process of protecting and recovering networks, devices and programs from any type of digital attack. Information System Technicians (IT) are enlisted Sailors who engage in a broad range of responsibilities, including network administration, database management and computer hardware and software implementation. Some of their responsibilities include serving as an administrator on mainframe computers and local and wide area networks. However, the IT’s aboard Ike are taking cybersecurity a step further.
According to Senior Chief Information Systems Technician Aimie Windemiller, CS-2’s leading chief petty officer, her Sailors take a "local defender" approach: a concept where IT's are more than just network administrators, but work to actively protect the network from ongoing threats.
"In terms of cybersecurity, there is no operational pause," said Windemiller. "Our information networks facilitate nearly everything that we do in terms of our ship's capabilities. The ability to actively understand our adversaries and the specific threats against us is vital to protect and maintain our networks."
Windemiller shared that defending the ship's networks also defends the Navy networks.
"Our ability to better operate and defend our ship’s networks also benefits the entire Navy," said Windemiller. "We constantly monitor cyberspace for new and emerging threats and vulnerabilities and frequently adjust our information infrastructure and cyber defenses to ensure we remain resilient and operationally effective in the face of the ever-evolving cyber threat. A single vulnerability on one network could have consequences across multiple Navy networks, so we must remain vigilant."
Windemiller added that while CS-2 plays a vital role in defending the ship's networks, all people involved in cybersecurity contribute to its effectiveness.
"Often times, people are viewed as the largest vulnerability in this equation – by that same logic, our people, each and every person touching a keyboard, can make the network stronger.”
Both Windemiller and Struikman emphasize that while Ike’s IT’s are leading the way in the Navy’s digital defense measures, cybersecurity is an all-hands effort.
“A network is only as strong as its users,” said Struikman. “Cyber awareness training isn’t just an annoying requirement; it is necessary to understand how to protect yourself, your shipmates, and our network.”
Pierside or out to sea, each member of the Five-Star crew must protect the Navy’s assets on the physical and digital frontier. These efforts will help prepare Ike and the fleet for future operations.
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