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Unseen heroes protect Citizen Airman in cyberspace

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Senior Airman Ryan Carney-Mogan, 960th Network Operations Squadron, cyber systems operator and directory services technician, simulates back end network operations on Nov. 5, 2016 here. The Directory Services section manages all users and computers for the entire Air Force Network. The 960th NOS is the only cyberspace operations group in the Air Force Reserve Command. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Amber Sorsek)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Senior Airman Ryan Carney-Mogan, 960th Network Operations Squadron, cyber systems operator and directory services technician, simulates back end network operations on Nov. 5, 2016 here. The Directory Services section manages all users and computers for the entire Air Force Network. The 960th NOS is the only cyberspace operations group in the Air Force Reserve Command. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Staff Sgt. Amber Sorsek)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

The 960th Cyberspace Operations Group is the only cyberspace group in the Air Force Reserve Command and the 960th Network Operations Squadron, which falls under the 960th CYOG, is located here. Cyberspace is the war-fighting domain of command and control, offensive and defensive operations, and electronic communication. In our age of increased reliance on the cyber domain, cyberspace security is a key component to providing superior global reach.

 

“We are network administrators defending the global Air Force network by allowing any Airman access to the resources needed to do their job while keeping the adversaries out,” said Senior Airman Ryan Carney-Mogan, 960th NOS cyber systems operator and directory services technician. “Without this security, we would not be effective in the battlefield.”

 

The 960th NOS assists the 561st Network Operations Squadron, an active duty counterpart, in employing the Cyber Security and Control System, or CSCS, weapon system to defend the Air Force Information Network.  The 960th NOS also operates the AFIN and ensures it is available. 

 

“The Air Force cyber domain must be available and secure for Department of Defense and Air Force missions,” said Capt. Lauren Berg, 960th NOS flight commander and cyber force generation. "The mission of the CSCS weapon system is to generate, project, and sustain combat cyberspace power by providing mission assurance of AFIN Core Services to the warfighter through operation and defense of the AFIN."

 

According to data from Business Insider Intelligence, the top cyber security area of protection is network defenses, which mean keeping hackers from navigating through and compromising critical data. The top two types of attacks are “zero-day attacks” and “cloud-data leakage.” Zero-day attacks are when software vulnerabilities have not been identified and cloud-data leakage is when workers upload sensitive company data to an unsecure place.

 

This is what cyber security looks like for a civilian business and it is similar for the Air Force. The most common type of data loss on the network is an individual giving access to an insidious entity. Members from the 960th NOS advise all Citizen and Total Force Airmen to help prevent cyber attacks by being aware of suspicious emails, not providing information online if the request appears suspicious, and by not clicking on suspicious links in emails.

 

Berg advises the best practice is prevention. Be suspicious of all links and attachments. Avoid clicking on links or attachments from people or companies you do not know. If you do know the sender, still be cautious and look for abnormalities in spelling and grammar.

 

It is clear that cyber security is every Citizen Airman’s responsibility.

 

With new online technologies and connections come new risks. The 960th Network Operations Squadron protects Citizen and Total Force Airmen from these new risks, but it also up to each individual Reservist to remain vigilant.

 

“I’ve seen too many logs of individuals accessing site they should not while on the network,” said Staff Sgt. June Sterbank, 960th NOS boundary protection technician. “We block sites, attachments, and bad traffic as much as possible and a little extra vigilance and integrity from each Citizen Airman goes a long way with protecting the AFIN.”

 

The largest threat to Air Force Reservists are social engineering attacks which ranges from phishing emails and pretext phone calls to dumpster diving. "One of the most pervasive threats is ransomware, which infect your system via malicious links or attachments or visiting infected websites," said Berg. “It is a type of malware that takes control of the user’s system, then the attackers demand a large sum of money to release control; do not pay the sum.”

 

960th NOS Reservists perform tasks such as installing, supporting, and maintaining server operation systems and applicable software application.  Basically, they monitor and eliminate cyber threats coming in as well as going out.

 

“If it leaves your base, it goes through our equipment,” said Sterbank. “We log your traffic and we are mainly known as the guys blocking your favorite websites.”

 

Being blocked from certain websites while logged into the network might be frustrating for many Citizen Airmen, but when it comes to protecting personal information on myPay, the Air Reserve Component Network’s Duty Plan, also known as ARCNet, and the virtual Military Personnel Flight, many Airmen are likely grateful for the unseen heroes at the 960th NOS for protecting their personal data in cyberspace.

 

Lt. Gen. William J. Bender, Air Force chief information officer, established October as the beginning of a yearlong Cyber Secure campaign to address cyber security throughout the Air Force.

 

“Cyber security depends on every Airman regardless of rank or job description,” said Bender in a memorandum to all Air Force personnel. “We must position cyber at the forefront of our thinking, planning, and operations.”

 

Across the total force, all Citizen Airmen should practice cyber security the same way as physical security.

 

Carney-Mogan informed the 960th NOS network administrators are responsible for maintaining security for the entire Air Force Network. “Access to almost any military related resource is protect by layers of security; one layer is multiple authentication from the user like a Common Access Card and pin,” he said.

 

It is difficult to remember multiple passwords for various mission essential sites Reservists utilize; however, there is a method to the madness. The multiple authentication factors are necessary to prevent loss of mission critical data.

 

According to Carney-Mogan, whenever a Citizen Airman logs onto a military network site, he or she is passing through security barriers the 960th NOS manages.

 

960th NOS Reservists are an extra layer of security inside the network.

 

The operations training section ensures all 960th NOS Reservists receive effective training in order to ensure cyber security. “Training and evaluating our operators is still a fluid process; therefore, we work hand-in-hand with our active duty sister unit to ensure quality training is developed, “ said Berg. “We ensure our operators can correctly execute defensive cyber operations and posture the Air Force networks to defend and protect Air Force systems and information.”

 

A total force training approach maximizes the Air Force’s resources while providing a quality education.

 

“I came into the Air Force Reserve about six years ago not knowing a lot about computers or networking,” said Sterbank. “Now I am the subject matter expert in my shop and I can easily work alongside our active duty counterparts.”

 

The 960th NOS was activated March 1, 2013 and includes a combination of full-time and traditional reserve members.

 

Until October 2016, the 960th NOS was administratively assigned to the 302nd Airlift Wing as a tenant unit.  Now, the 433rd Airlift Wing located at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas is the host wing and has administrative control of the 960th NOS; however, its members rely on the 302nd AW for readiness requirements and mentoring for enlisted members.  The 302nd AW also helps the 960th NOS not to feel so isolated from their parent group in Texas.

 

During the November Unit Training Assembly, the 960th NOS Citizen Airman accepted the Air Force Reserve Command’s General Harold W. Grant award for cyber unit of the year for 2015 during a wing commander’s call.

 

“I am proud to be a part of such an amazing unit with a highly impactful mission,” said Carney-Mogan.

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