Coast Guard mandates e-mail phishing training

The Coast Guard is ordering all personnel connected to its network to take mandatory training on how to avoid fake e-mail messages that try to acquire sensitive data in a technique known as phishing and even more highly targeted attacks known as spear phishing.

Last month, the Defense Department mandated that all its personnel take spear phishing awareness training by Jan. 17. The Coast Guard is requiring the same of all Coast Guard personnel who connect to the service’s network over Standard Work Station III (SW III) computers, according to a Dec. 21 message sent to all personnel by Rear Adm. R.T. Hewitt, assistant commandant for command, control, communications, computers and information technology.

The message said all active-duty, reserve and auxiliary personnel and those who use SW II terminals are required to take the mandatory phishing training, which can be done online via the Coast Guard’s e-learning Web portal.  Contractors who use SW III workstations are also required to take the training.

The Coast Guard’s requirement stems from directives by the U.S. Strategic Command regarding DOD Information Operations Condition (Infocon) procedures and Homeland Security Department policy directives on sensitive systems, Hewitt’s message said.

Last month, DOD raised its Infocon status from Level 5, or normal operating conditions, to Level 4 “in the face of continuing and sophisticated threats” to DOD networks.

The Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO) barred the use of HTML e-mail messages as part of the raised threat level, because HTML e-mails can be infected with spyware and, in some cases, executable code that could enable intruders to access DOD networks, the JTF-GNO spokesman said.

DOD training documents require the use of plain-text e-mail messages and caution users against opening any HTML documents with attachments because they are potential sources of malicious software.

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