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NEWS | March 29, 2022

Michigan National Guard enhances cyber warfare training during Cyber Strike

By MSgt. David Eichaker Michigan National Guard

GRAYLING, Mich.—The National All Domain Warfighting Center (NADWC) hosted its first ever Cyber-Strike event for industry, law enforcement, and the Michigan National Guard at the Camp Grayling Joint Maneuver Training Center to gain a better unified response to a cyber-attack. The event helped bring together all these stakeholders to address the potential threat of malware attacks which could include ransomware, computer viruses, spyware, and Trojan horses.

“This is the inaugural event and it’s very exciting looking out at all the fighters present here today,” said Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs as he addressed the attendees. “Your skillset is critical for our economy, national defense, societal functions, and absolutely critical for everything cyber-teams do and this investment and your participation is so important to us,” he said.

The Michigan National Guard has participated in various small-scale cyber and electronic warfare events, but Cyber Strike focused on replicating a live training environment utilizing 27 key personnel from different organizations on a closed network running a malware application.

“We thought it would be a prime opportunity to bring not just industry people together to participate in a cyber-training exercise, but to also incorporate other cyber partners,” said Steve Jacobs, an industry liaison partner to the NADWC with Velocity Management Solutions. “We brought in law enforcement, prosecutors, detectives, and the Michigan Air National Guard.”

Cybersecurity represents the measures taken to protect information technology from criminal or unauthorized use, and that defense incorporates many functions in order to balance the cybersecurity risk with the capabilities required for mission success. Local law enforcement participated in the training exercise and reflected on the value and importance of professional connections, building partnerships, and working together to solve real cyber threats.

“It’s extremely important that we work together as a team,” said Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich. “We may know the people who live in our local communities but we don’t have the overall federal resources of the military or federal government at our fingertips. Our National Guard and the infrastructure within the military have assets and resources we don’t have access to.”

The Michigan Army and Air National Guard is growing and expanding its capabilities with integrated cyberwar into physical exercises using cyber forces to impede cyber attacks and share those capabilities with cyber community partners.

“They share those resources with us and it allows us to take the military knowledge, equipment, background, and training and provide us locally those resources we may need for proper response,” Borkovich said.

During their time at the training event, they developed a plan to counter the simulated cyber-attack while enhancing relationships during a coordinated multiagency/multi-echelon response. Events like this can strengthen Michigan National Guard partnerships with state and local agencies ensuring a timely and coordinated response to protect and support the citizens of our communities, state, and nation.

“The scenario is that there are multiple systems that have been infected with the same software and somebody on the network left malware. We’re trying to identify where it is,” said Air Force Capt. Shannon Bender, assigned to the 272nd Cyber Operations Squadron, 110th Wing, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base.

Michigan National Guard communication organizations capitalize on current talent and leverage civilian expertise and this increased capability of the Michigan National Guard will be leveraged with regard to cyber defense. Cyber work experience derived through civilian training, education and hands-on application coupled with military-derived capabilities makes the National Guard an invaluable asset in cyber security.

“We are collaboratively working with civilian counterparts to stop any threat,” said Bender. “There are analysts working, there is networking, and we have the middle management and upper echelon of command and control all working together—it’s well organized and we would be ready to respond.”

“One of the huge benefits from this training is networking with other cyber security personnel—they know we are here locally with assets that can be used to potentially help them,” he added.

Cyber threats are real and understanding how to implement a live training scenario while working together is one way the Michigan National Guard prioritizes partnerships, to include working across the state focusing on cyber programs.

“If it is a situation that is threatening people in this area, as a team we are stronger together,” said Borkovich. “That’s where the National Guard is extremely important—we have a National Guard and it’s nice to know that infrastructure protection is there.”