[ISN] Comm squadron fights 'cyber' war every day

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Mon May 24 03:20:36 EDT 2004

Forwarded from: William Knowles <wk at c4i.org>


by Mike Campbell
11th Wing Public Affairs 
May 21, 2004 

The 11th Communications Squadron and the Network Control Center guard 
wing computers 24/7 and remain vigilant as malicious computer viruses 
and Internet worms continue to attack personal, business and military 
computers worldwide. 

Contrary to what many might think, September 11 and its aftermath did 
not have any significant negative affect on computer security in the 
11th Wing, according to Philip Hom, information assurance specialist 
with 11th CS. 

Mr. Hom says the real threat to wing computers comes from hackers' 
ability to develop new and ever-more elusive viruses that can 
penetrate even relatively secure and well-monitored networks such as 

"They design viruses that are very well-hidden," he said. "In a couple 
of the viruses I've seen, there was no interaction [with the user] 
required. The virus just comes on your network and users don't have to 
click on anything." 

He noted that the last time the Bolling network had to be shut down 
because of a virus was the spring of 1999, when the Melissa virus, 
which replicated itself through e-mail, emerged from nowhere to 
overwhelm commercial, government and military computer systems. Since 
then, improved detection techniques and the vigilance of the Air Force 
Computer Emergency Response Team have kept Bolling's network free from 
major disruptions. 

Besides guarding against new viruses by updating and installing 
anti-virus "patches" designed to render them harmless throughout the 
network, the 11th Wing Information Assurance Flight is constantly 
researching new, Internet-based software that may be attractive, but 
potentially harmful to users. Some of this software can contain 
invisible computer programs called "spyware," which allow the 
programs' originators to gain users' personal information after they 
unwittingly install the spyware by activating "Trojan Horse" programs 
by simply opening attachments. 

"Usually it's going to be [free or e-mailed] games that look cool or 
funny, and meant more for enjoyment; those tend to be the biggest 
culprits," said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Milton, an 11th CS information 
assurance specialist. While the user is busy playing the game, the 
malicious software imbedded in the game is doing its damage. "Every 
time they play it, they install the program," which Sergeant Milton 
said can, in some cases, lead to complete "identity theft" of the 

With malicious hackers lurking everywhere on the Internet and 
unsolicited e-mail and "spam" hitting e-mail inboxes in record 
numbers, everyone on base needs to be smart about protecting and 
maintaining the security and integrity of the Bolling network 

Sergeant Milton said that when it comes to computer security, getting 
smart begins with the individual user faithfully locking their 
computer every time they leave the keyboard. "That prevents [others] 
from being able to tamper with your system when you're gone," he said. 

Other basic precautions he suggests are not downloading trial, free or 
other online software without going through the workgroup manager to 
ensure there is nothing wrong with the software. He also cautions 
users that software additions must be thoroughly checked out and 
undergo an accreditation process before the software can be authorized 
to be installed on a wing computer. 

Sergeant Milton emphasized that units' workgroup managers are the 
first point of contact for any questions users may have about computer 

"Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
C4I.org - Computer Security, & Intelligence - http://www.c4i.org
Help C4I.org with a donation: http://www.c4i.org/contribute.html

More information about the ISN mailing list