Cybersecurity

Air Force takes cyber message 'beyond the uniform'

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When it comes to cybersecurity awareness, the Air Force doesn't want to just keep it within the Defense Department.

Air Force Chief Information Security Officer Peter Kim said the service branch has been pushing its cybersecurity message "beyond the uniform" to educate service members’ families to better protect the DOD.

"My spouse at home, my children who are online, even my parents, if they're not cyber-safe and cyber-secure it affects me and the workplace," Kim said. "For my own frame of mind and for their safety, I wanted to do something beyond the uniform. Let’s make sure that the total force, the family, is also secure."

Since September and following the Air Force’s IT and Cyberpower Conference in Montgomery, Ala., Kim said he and teams have been sent to several air bases and will extend trips into November. In the awareness push, service members, their spouses, children, parents and grandparents are given information materials on what cybersecurity hygiene means, what threats are and how to protect children from identity theft.

"It hit home for me last year when my father at home was getting spear-phishing attacks about bank accounts, [requests] for passwords," Kim said. "I found myself at work worried about him. And I realized that not only do airmen have to be aware of these cybersecurity threats."

The effort follows the massive Equifax security breach that affected more than 143 million consumers, sparking congressional investigations into companies’ cybersecurity practices and a push for more consumer awareness -- even in the DOD.

Ken Bible, the deputy director of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Command, Control, Communications and Computers Department (C4) and the USMC deputy CIO, said that social media awareness has been a challenge as younger Marines use it in their daily lives. One specific threat: online impersonators of high-ranking military leaders.

"One the areas we’ve found ourselves spending some time on is the evolution of 'evil twins,' which is what we call someone taking on the identity of a senior leader and trying to lure a young Marine into giving them bad directions or asking them for funds," he said.

As a remedy, the USMC has established relationships with major social media companies to help disable fake accounts, but it’s a persistent threat that requires flexibility and vigilance.

"It’s an area where our young folks live daily, and we’re going to have to adapt to those realities," Bible said.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at lwilliams@fcw.com, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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