• Published
  • By Lt. Col. Scott Solomon
  • 333rd Training Squadron commander
Cyberspace this, Cyberspace that!

Why is the Air Force placing such huge focus on the cyber domain? When I asked my staff what kind of article I should write, they suggested I touch on cyberspace since we are the ones who are standing up the 17D schoolhouse for the new 17D cyber operations officer career field. Before I begin, let me address a few aspects of cyberspace. First, there is a huge threat out there that most of us don't have the situational awareness to even realize there is problem. Second, there are many people on both sides of the law benefiting from cyberspace. And finally, there are things we can do to help alleviate the threat.

The emergence of cyberspace as a warfighting domain has left some people wondering about how to identify and fix the threat. In most cases, the biggest threat is the person sitting at the keyboard behind the computer. Growing up in Los Angeles, I knew that it was probably a bad idea for me to walk down a dark alley at 2 a.m. However, in cyberspace, many people do this at home and at work on a regular basis without realizing the danger lurking in cyberspace. Bad guys are out there to capitalize on our ignorance and poor computer practices. They want to steal our information and piggyback on our computers or network to get to other people's information.

Who benefits most from cyberspace? All of us law abiding citizens, or netizens, benefit daily with our ability to access information in cyberspace through our keyboards. However, there are others that you may not think about. Cyber criminals out for economic gain are constantly developing more sophisticated phishing e-mails, malware, and viruses to steal identities and financial information. Terrorists are using the Internet for recruiting, training, motivating and conducting operations with their followers. They can operate without restraint and are free to innovate, unbound by law, policy or precedent. Countries like Russia and China are developing their own cyberspace warriors who can identify and exploit weaknesses in our military, government and commercial networks.

To help mitigate the threat, we need to raise the level of awareness on safe computing practices which help identify what's normal and what's safe on the Internet. One way the Air Force is raising your awareness is through your information assurance training. Before you throw spears, I know it's not very comprehensive and can seem like a waste of time, but it's a starting point. The Air Force has reorganized the way it will train and equip the new 17D officer career field. These new cyber operations officers will be at the tip of the spear actively defending our cyberspace networks and infrastructure. Say you're sitting at home or work and your computer starts to slow down or lock up. What's the cause? Is it normal? Most people have no idea what normal is and don't need to know that level of detail to use their computers. However, if your computer is slowing down, its' telling you that its processor is working on something -- that something may be something normal or may be a threat.

It's a scary world in cyberspace. Actions at the speed of light, non-repudiation and anonymity are both good and bad. In order to navigate the traps of cyberspace, there are some easy things you can do to make yourself and your computer less vulnerable. Make sure your home computer has the latest software updates, an active firewall and an active updated antivirus protection program. If you didn't understand what I was saying in the last sentence, you're not alone. Do yourself a favor and get smart on this subject. Good computer practices will help protect yourself, others and the Air Force network.