Information awareness starts with users

by U.S. Air Forces in Europe

The U.S. Air Forces in Europe Information Assurance Awareness Campaign, Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, will focus on educating servicemembers and their families on how they can safeguard not only their government systems, but personal ones, too.
“The end result of this campaign is a more secure operating environment for our information and our people at home and at work,” said Terrance Winn, USAFE Communications Directorate cyber surety manager.

Imagine your home computer getting hacked. What would you do?
In 2009, a Department of Defense-sanctioned team was tasked with hacking in to USAFE computer systems. The team succeeded. They cracked the passwords for 66 administrator accounts and found 373 accounts dormant. They were also able to find 333 files with passwords, to include 13 secure network user names and passwords.

When the team finished its mission, they had compromised more than 62,000 USAFE accounts.

If you don’t think this couldn’t affect you at home – think again. The team used tools readily available on the Internet.

“If they can do that (crack passwords) here, think of what can happen at home,” said Tech. Sgt. Philip Maize, USAFE Communication Directorate certification accreditation manager.

The damage to a personal computer system may not be as widespread as what can happen to a government system, but it can happen.

“The best action to take to educate your family is to stay proactive and learn about computer hazards through news articles and the information assurance commercials on Armed Forces Network,” said Staff Sgt. Nathan A. Brown, 86th Communications Squadron information assurance technician.

The work tasks people perform from home range from working on military members’ performance reports to awards and then accessing Webmail to attach and send work to a government system. This also includes anyone who works from home, burns their items to CD and then brings it into work.

Password security, social media/networking and Webmail threats, online shopping safety, e-mail scams, password protection, free home use anti-virus, default password and phishing will be highlighted during the annual campaign.

The campaign emphasizes user education. It’s important because information revolves around everything the user does. This information is in the technology being used, and people are consumed by it.

“In addition to the campaign, military members and their families can check with the local Education Center, which can assist you with any of the computer classes offered,” Sergeant Brown said.

Taking that extra step to help protect information and who has the need to know is key in daily communication, Sergeant Maize said.

“Users must ensure they’re monitoring and being aware of what they’re sending out and what’s going through from (them) to the world,” said Sergeant Maize. “As technology increases, people must keep reminding themselves to check and double check before they hit the send button at work and at home.”

Home use anti-virus software is available to help protect the machines as much as possible.

“We can’t direct the security of the personal machines, but we can provide the tools to help ensure they have the best security posture available,” said Mr. Winn. “It’s a risk we take by allowing OWA to connect into the network from home.”
Servicemembers can access from home or work if they have a CAC card and reader to download free anti-virus software for use on their personal computers.

(Editor’s note: Tech. Sgt. Francesca Popp, U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs and Airman 1st Class Ciara M. Travis, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this story.)