Cyber culture and continued transformation

  • Published
  • By Maj. Christopher Robinson
  • 17th Communications Squadron Commander
It may be hard to believe but it was just over six years ago in December 2005 that the Air Force unveiled a new mission statement in response to a dynamic environment that had changed dramatically over almost six decades for our service.

A significant addition to the mission statement was the Air Force's validation of cyberspace as an operational domain. The mission statement was revised in August 2008 to what we know and live today, "to fly, fight and air, space and cyberspace." The emphasis placed on cyberspace was and still is a critical strategic and cultural shift that required a commitment and focus to ensure superiority in this operational domain. As stated by the Honorable Michael Donley, Secretary of the Air Force and General Norton Schwartz our Chief of Staff, "we must think of cyberspace as a mission-critical domain where operations are characterized by rigor and discipline and are executed with precision and reliability."

The Air Force culture has made significant progress in transitioning our traditional communications and information professionals into cyberspace operators and support Airmen. There have also been great strides in clearly defining how the Air Force will present cyber forces and conduct command and control of the Air Force Network.

Despite all of these accomplishments, the transformation is far from over and there remains much to do, but we will achieve our goals. On March 9, the SAF Chief Information Officer and Air Force Space Command signed the Cyberspace Operations and Support Community Transformation Plan. This document serves as the roadmap for cyberspace professionals and key teammates as we continue to grow our workforce, evolve and transition from a support role to an operational mindset, and advocate for cyberspace and the capabilities and effects we bring to the fight.

While this addresses our cyberspace operations and support Airmen, we must also continue to grow and educate all Airmen as we are reminded by the Secretary and Chief of Staff's 2009 memorandum to all Airmen that, "cyberspace is a contested domain and we must all conduct ourselves as 'Cyber Wingmen,' recognizing that our actions and activities on the network affect every other Airman and impact our ability to execute the broader Air Force mission."

We must continue to follow network and physical security controls and procedures. As we all are aware, the actions of the reckless and careless whether intentional or unintentional can have severe consequences. The most serious recent example being Army Private 1st Class Bradley Manning who is accused of leaking classified material to the website WikiLeaks, putting at risk the lives of service members and our mission. We are all "Cyber Wingmen" and we need to exercise rigor and discipline in conducting our mission on the networks and various systems.

The "Rise of the Cyber Wingman" philosophy incorporates the following 10 guiding principles every Airman needs to know and use to secure cyberspace:

1. The United States is vulnerable to cyberspace attacks by relentless adversaries attempting to infiltrate our networks -- at work and at home -- millions of times a day.

2. Our adversaries plant malicious code, worms, botnets and hooks in common Web sites, software and in hardware such as thumbdrives, printers, etc.

3. Once implanted, this code begins to distort, destroy and manipulate information, or it "phones" it home. Certain code allows our adversaries to obtain higher levels of credentials to access highly sensitive information.

4. The adversary attacks your computers at work and at home knowing you communicate with the Air Force network by email or by transferring information from one system to another.
5. As cyber wingmen, you have a critical role in defending your networks, your information, your security, your teammates and your country.

6. You significantly decrease our adversaries' access to our networks, critical Air Force information and even your personal identity, by taking simple action.

7. Do not open attachments or click on links unless the email is digitally signed, or you can directly verify the source, even if it appears to be from someone you know.

8. Do not connect any hardware or download any software, applications, music or information onto Air Force networks without approval.

9. Encrypt sensitive but unclassified or mission critical information. Ask your communications squadron for more information.

10. Install the free Defense Department anti-virus software on your home computer. Ask your communications squadron for more information.