Only you can prevent security breaches

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Michael Paul)

(U.S. Air Force graphic by Michael Paul)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- In an unseen realm represented by ones and zeroes, an information war is constantly raging. Whether they know it or not, everyone who uses the internet is involved.

Protecting information can be the difference between mission success and failure, and although we have cyber sentinels guarding the data stream, sometimes the greatest threat is from within.

"Some of the biggest computer security violations stem from the seemingly little infractions," said Staff Sgt. Samuel Moyer, 30th Space Communications Squadron alternate communications security manager. "Everything from plugging in an unauthorized USB device to opening links or attachments in an unsigned email from an untrusted source can have substantial impact on the network as a whole."

Although people can be frustrated by the sadistically long training sessions mandated by the Air Force, educating people is still the best way to prevent security violations.

"The biggest weakness in Cyber Security is user training," said Moyer. "It doesn't matter how many policies or directives the Air Force or Department of Defense implements. It ultimately comes down to whether the user understands and abides by these rules, or whether the user even knows these rules exist.  We can implement as many network safeguards as we want, but that effort is futile if the threat comes from an uninformed employee inside the network."

Staying vigilant and always keeping operational security in the forefront of your mind can help prevent simple mistakes that will negatively impact the mission.

"People need to understand that security is a necessary requirement here," said Staff Sgt. Jessica Hopkins, 30th Space Communications Squadron quality assurance evaluator. When people email work home, save it on their computer, and then email it back to work, they are also creating potential security breaches. "Sometimes it takes extra time, but that doesn't mean you are not supposed to do it. What is convenient for you is not always convenient for the Air Force."

"What if their computer has a virus on it? Now they have possibly sent that virus to a government computer," said Hopkins. "Keep work at work."

On a government network, where classified information is constantly being shared, the mere hint of a virus can cause the entire infrastructure to grind to a halt.

"When a virus is identified on your network, getting rid of it is a long process. It can take up to 70 or more man hours," said Hopkins.

Ultimately, cyber security is no single person's responsibility. The time that can be lost and the damage that can be caused, rest in the hands of the user.

"Base employees protect the system by doing simple things, like knowing not to click on an email link that comes from somebody you don't know," said Hopkins. "Don't be curious, just delete it."