The Indiana Army National Guard will expand its mission in 2016, but this latest initiative will not be visible in the usual way. Rather than Hoosiers seeing more convoys on their highways, this surge will occur in cyberspace – on the information superhighway – in the form of a Cyber Protection Team.
About two weeks ago, the Guard received approval for the new force, which will be trained in cybersecurity and information technology skills and, when mobilized, support U.S. Army Cyber Command and defensive cyberspace operations. When deployed for state duties, the CPT will support law enforcement, homeland defense and civilian authorities.
The Indiana team is one of 10 cyber protection teams the Army National Guard plans to activate in the 2016 through 2018 fiscal years, according to the Army Times. Indiana will serve as headquarters of a regional CPT that also includes Guard forces in Michigan and Ohio. California and Georgia also will get CPTs, but stationing plans for seven other units have yet to be decided, the newspaper reported.
The need for such defensive capabilities is readily apparent when one considers how many daily – yes, daily – attacks that state governments experience. For example, the state of Michigan halts about 730,000 attacks on its IT network each day. That’s a 26 percent increase over those attacks fended off in 2013 in a state that already spends $22 million a year on cybersecurity. Such attacks range from spamming and phishing to the use of malicious software known as “bots” that slow or shut down a computer network.
One of the reasons the Indiana National Guard was selected for a CPT is its long-standing research and teaching partnership with Indiana University. IU conducts significant education, training, service and operations in information assurance coordinated by its Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, which is a leader in the Army Cybersecurity Collaborative Research Alliance.
Such work mainly culminates in our School of Informatics and Computing, the Maurer School of Law and the Kelley School of Business, as well as our School of Science and our School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI. In addition, IU draws upon such unique and extensive resources as its:
- Pervasive Technology Institute;
- Research and Education Networking Information Sharing and Analysis Center;
- Global Research Network Operations Center, which operates Internet2 and more than a dozen other international networks;
- University Information Security Office
Other factors in Indiana’s favor were Purdue University’s Cyber Center, the state’s fully accredited, 10,000-square-foot Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility and the Muscatatuck-Atterbury cyber range at Camp Atterbury near Edinburgh. The range is a leading facility for public and private cyber security training and later this month will host the 2015 Cyber Shield national-level training exercise.
In a letter to the National Guard’s Cyber Protection Team Selection Panel last fall, IU President Michael A. McRobbie emphasized the university’s commitment to information assurance and stated that IU is anxious to support this emerging and vital component to our national security.
“We believe that our approach – which combines technical, policy, and social aspects of information assurance, and both theoretical and practical expertise – is critical to preparing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals … I am pleased to strongly confirm that the stationing of a Cyber Protection Team with the Indiana, Ohio and Michigan partnership would build on the strengths already present in our region such as the many academic organizations and substantial infrastructure.”
— IU President Michael A. McRobbie
At present, the Army Guard has one full-time, 19-member CPT now training at Army Cyber Command. It was established in 2014. There are currently 25 active-duty Cyber Mission Force (CMF) teams operating in the U.S. Army, with 41 teams set to be fully operational by 2017.
The head of U.S. Army Cyber Command, Lt. Gen. Edward C. Cardon, told lawmakers last week that Guard- and Reserve-level cyber experts are a “tremendous resource” because they already have skills that allow them to quickly integrate into the cyberspace force, as opposed to soldiers who must be trained from scratch. They also augment the active cyberforce and support missions in the U.S. and abroad – including Afghanistan and parts of Southwest Asia.
For Indiana to be one of the first states chosen for such an important and cutting-edge mission is a testament to its forward-thinking leadership and its growing emphasis on innovation. In the selection process, the Indiana-Michigan-Ohio CPT emerged atop a field of 32 nomination packets that represented 45 states, territories and the District of Columbia. Such an effort could not have been successful without the resources and commitment to cybersecurity training, research, service and operations that Indiana University provides.