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The “Dawning” Of A Cyber Opportunity

Stefanie Senkow
August 13, 2021
Revised September 15, 2021

cadets in front of a computerNEW LONDON, Conn. – The world of cyber security is a dynamic, complex, and challenging career field with a 500,000 person workforce deficit in the United States alone (and almost 3.5 million globally, according to Cybersecurity Ventures). Recruiting such limited talent with such high demand directly into the Coast Guard is a daunting task. The Coast Guard Academy’s Cyber Systems major is one means the Coast Guard is using to recruit and develop future Cyber Leaders of Character. But just what will these folks be doing in the Coast Guard and how do you motivate and share what the future possibilities are? Send them to actual training exercises with USCG CYBER COMMAND. Cyber Dawn, a two-week event hosted by the California National Guard, trains cyber first responders, and this year a select number of Cyber Systems cadets got the chance to apply and sharpen their skills and build their confidence in the two week-long exercise.

“The cadets applied principles learned in class to setup, monitor, and defend a cyber system. The cyber system being leveraged was a virtual environment that was easily restorable should mistakes be made; it made a great learning platform,” said LT Ryan Quarry, a Cyber Systems instructor at the Academy.

In the first week of the training, cadets learned about the tools they needed to deploy in case of a cyberattack. They then applied these tools to various exercises during the second week in what is normally referred to as “blue team” cyber defense activities.

Second Class Cadet (2/c) Heather Huang pivoted from a more “red team” (attacking perspective) and overcame the challenge of her unfamiliarity with actively detecting and defending a network under duress.

“Previously, I had focused on learning how a network works and how to exploit it during Cyber Team competitions. But this training environment was set up in a sink or swim situation where they threw you into a real-world experience and let you make mistakes to learn from them. However, at the end of the day, they did not truly let you sink because they walked you through your mistakes and were there to answer questions during the whole exercise,” said Huang.

Second Class Cadet (2/c) Noah Soto was pushed out of his comfort zone and had to operate in an Operating System not normally utilized for launching cyber attacks from but rather tend to be the targets.

“One skill that improved greatly because of Cyber Dawn was my comfort with various security tools. On the Cyber Team, we typically work in a Linux environment, so being pushed out of my comfort zone into a predominantly Windows setting was beneficial because I got a more in-depth look into things like PowerShell, Domain Controllers, security policies, and more,” said 2/c Noah Soto.

Second Class Cadet (2/c) Joram Stith was embedded with the offensive “red team” portion of the exercise and gained a better understanding of the technical aspects of penetration testing and cyber attack scenarios which will improve his ability to lead a crew as a Coast Guard officer in the cyber field and potentially one day as a Team Lead on a USCG Cyber Protection or Mission Team.

“As future cyber officers, cadets in the Cyber Systems major and Cyber Team are encouraged to pursue hands-on, technical experience in cyber security. This focus helps us better understand and lead the primarily enlisted and civilian workforce doing the technical cyber work for the Coast Guard,” said Stith.

See why Cyber Systems is one of the Coast Guard’s fastest growing careers.

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U.S. has almost 500,000 job openings in cybersecurity - CBS News and Cybersecurity Talent Crunch To Create 3.5 Million Unfilled Jobs Globally By 2021 (cybersecurityventures.com).