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North Carolina National Guard Cyber Shield 2020

  • Published
  • By by Maj. Mathew Boyle
  • North Carolina National Guard

KURE BEACH, N.C. – Soldiers and Airmen of the North Carolina National Guard participated in Cyber Shield 2020 at the Fort Fisher Training Center, Kure Beach, N.C. on Sept. 21 – 25, 2020.

Cyber Shield 2020 is a national event with over 500 participants, including 21 groups from the East Coast to Guam, replicating the real world interaction between National Guard, state and territory agencies.

Each group includes a blue team defending the network and a red team attacking or exploiting the network. The exercise is supported by a virtual range control and fusion cell which provide technical support and liaison with other federal and state agencies.

“Being able to work across physical locations, trouble shooting technical problems at each site, we formed this team during Cyber Shield 2020 exercise leveraging Microsoft Teams and other platforms to collaborate, so to do all this is very rewarding,” said North Carolina Army National Guard Maj. Justin Hillberry, Blue Team 22 leader and Cyber Security Specialist.

The blue team is responsible for defensive cyber operations to include conducting incident management response for state and local partners, augmenting state partner information technology teams, defending the virtual network which simulates a mission partner network, and intercepting attacks and exploits.

The blue team is comprised of 20 personnel, five from Virginia and 15 from North Carolina from the Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management, North Carolina Air National Guard and North Carolina Army National Guard.

“The North Carolina National Guard is heavily involved in incident response,” said Hilllberry. “This is an opportunity to grow and train our force, increase the fidelity of our state partnerships both of which gives the state of North Carolina the best possible support during an emergency, incident or event.”

The red team is responsible for emulating threats and opposition forces. They use known tools to compromise the blue team network. Red team leaves evidence of compromise and provides exploits for the blue team to interact with.

Red team tactics include phishing, water hole attack and exploiting outdated software and expired software patches.

“It is an opportunity to practice offensive capabilities, which is a valuable learning experience, during the year I focus on defending our network, here at Cyber Shield I get the chance to be offensive which makes me a better defender,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Timothy Hitch, Red Team 22 Leader.

Cyber Shield Range Control, designed the network architecture for the digital range. The digital range includes the traffic generation, back end development and is the virtual environment that the entire Cyber Shield exercise is operating on.

The digital range took 13 months to build. This is the first year that the range has been designed and operated by military personnel, and is the foundation for Cyber Shield for 2021 and beyond.

“The most rewarding aspect of this project has been working with all the states and territories from the East Coast to Guam, making sure they are set up to have a productive Cyber Shield exercise,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Schaecher, Telecom Manager, North Carolina National Guard.

Cyber Shield 2020 provided an opportunity to develop, train and exercise cyber forces the ability to conduct cyber incident response and computer network internal defensive measures. This effort allows National Guard Cyber experts to coordinate, train and assist federal, state and industry network owners that are threatened by cyberattack.