Protecting Your Own

September 2010

A soldier in harm’s way has no greater ally than other soldiers watching his or her back. That trust is the
key component of a good unit. Usually, the bond of trust that only members of the military share is built
during training and missions. That trust is priceless in theater, but what about other environments?
Dark alleys, sketchy neighborhoods, the bleachers of an away game – soldiers have that covered. But,
who has your back in cyberspace?

Because of the interactivity and connectivity of the web and military networks, a moment of inattention
or negligence can put lives and missions at risk half way around the world. Cybercriminals and foreign
agents are always looking for weak spots and open doors in our secure networks. Even when all security
protocols are in place our military networks are under constant attack. That’s no secret. Yet, it is not
always obvious to military personnel stateside or down range, that a single unauthorized download or
a network access point left unsecured can endanger fellow soldiers. Once a bad guy is inside the cyber
wire it might take months to fully realize the damage done and the missions and lives compromised.
That means a person who just has to bend or break IA policies and procedures “just this once,” may
never fully understand the harm that once instant could cause.

The news is full of stories of leaked information from within our own ranks. If one of our own can do it,
what about those with whom we are at war or those who do not have our national interests at heart?
Is there a degree of blame for the loss of secure data whether someone who purposely leaks data or
someone who lets a bad guy in because of negligence? The stakes are too high when it comes to the
loss of military data or personally identifying information. Blame becomes secondary when the real
problem is that it happened in the first place. We may not always be able to prevent data loss caused
by someone who we thought we could trust. However, every soldier, civilian worker and government
contractor can remember that there are soldiers in harm’s way who are trusting us to protect the data
and communications that could put them at risk

I’m sure the information assurance message must be getting old to people who cannot fully understand
the potential risks of allowing even one network breach. For those who understand the consequences,
no amount of training and reminding will be enough. Our cybersecurity technology is constantly
improving and evolving to meet increased and often very sophisticated threats. Yet, technological
safeguards can still be compromised by a determined and knowledgeable person. It doesn’t even take
someone who is trying to cause harm. It just takes someone that has to have that new online game
or has to take advantage of the free music, or has to tell everyone in a social networking group about
the “really interesting” stuff going on at work. Whether it’s in Kansas, Korea or Kandahar, anyone with
access to military data and military networks has the responsibility to keep the bad guys out. We all
need to have each other’s cyber back.

The On Cyber Patrol© cartoon and supporting articles are created and made available by the U.S. Army’s Office of Information Assurance and Compliance, NETCOM, CIO/G6. For more information on the OCP program or to submit ideas for upcoming cartoons/articles, contact

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