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Cyber Security Education and Training Initiatives for Defense Personnel

The cyber age is upon us. Rapid evolution in technology, dynamic and borderless cyber landscape, has forced governments to establish secure systems, which should be one step ahead of the enemy. While the defense industry tends to be more program focused and slow-moving, the cyber security market is technology-driven and growing fast. With a greater dependence on informational technologies and network security, prevalence of electronic communications and widespread access to mobile networked devices, today’s armed forces are faced with a set of challenges in maintaining virtual security from the threat of attack. The cyber threat has never been more apparent to today's defense sector. The rising threat of cyber-attacks to critical infrastructure, constantly growing investments in the development of cyber security solutions for battlefield operations, along with high-tech innovations in the cyber security market, continues to be a key driver for the growth of relevant cyber security solutions for the defense industry. That is why securing, protecting, and defending our nation’s digital information and critical infrastructure requires building a highly-skilled workforce that can respond to the challenges of today.

Despite declining defense budget in most of the West European region, the global cyber security market for the defense industry is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. As the Global Information Security Workforce predicts, demand for personnel with relevant security skills will rise constantly over the next three years.[1] As the report shows, the top 5 most important skills for a successful information security professional are: broad understanding of the security field; communication skills; awareness and understanding of the latest security threats; technical knowledge and knowledge of relevant security policy. And these are the required skills for militaries to have in order to fulfill their obligations of defending national interests.

Nowadays, cyber threats do not fit easily into the traditional security framework, they often come from overseas, which creates some difficulties for law enforcement to deter or detect them. For instance, the theft of information from government and especially defense sector probably ranks as the most serious threats to national security, as well as cyber espionage and cyber terrorism. So government’s response to those challenges is crucial and the role of the military is central to this. This fact raises the question of the appropriateness of using the military to address such threats as handling information security issues, responding to ICT challenges and finding solutions to avoid or prevent unseen damage caused by harmful attack.

Before focusing on the importance of cyber education for the militaries, we should underline the fact, that in the top ten list of countries with most cyber criminals expertized in hacking and top sources of outgoing cyber-attacks are China, USA, Turkey and the 4th place is taken by our neighbor country Russia.[2] Two main cyber “attackers” and players in the cyber space in the World - China and Russia are expending their cyber capabilities. For instance, in 2014 the Chinese military set up a high-level cyberspace intelligence center. Military cyber programs are among the most secret elements of China’s large-scale military buildup, which has focused on developing asymmetric warfare capabilities and weapons. It’s worth mentioning that China is promoting itself as a global leader in cyber security. In the Military Strategy of China we read, “as cyberspace weighs more in military security, China will expedite the development of a cyber force, and enhance its capabilities of cyberspace situation awareness, cyber defense, support for the country's endeavors in cyberspace and participation in international cyber cooperation, so as to stem major cyber crises, ensure national network and information security, and maintain national security and social stability.”[3] China is achieving the goal because of the education it provides to its population. It is estimated there are about 200 cyber schools in China. Cyber education has been growing rapidly in China since the late 1990s, especially in the fields of higher education and basic education. At the end of 2002 up to 67 universities in China have received cyber education licenses, and over 1.6 million of students enrolled in these cyber-education institutions involved in 140 specialties.

Russia along with China is using broader concept of cyber warfare, which includes planting viruses and sabotaging information systems, electronic warfare, debilitation of communications, psychological pressure, including traditional weapons with digital and electronic attacks, degradation of information systems and propaganda. Nota Bene: the current Russian military doctrine calls for "prior implementation of measures of informational warfare in order to achieve political objectives without the utilization of military forces." Computers are just one of the many tools of information warfare, which is carried out 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in war and in peace. DDoS attacks, cyber espionage, and Russia’s state TV channels are all related tools of information warfare. One of the most unique features of the Russian cyber program we should point at is that it relies largely on youth groups such as the Kremlin-controlled “Nashi” and other number of cyber-criminal syndicates and simply autodidact hackers. It is super cost-effective, imagine a reserve force that not only does not cost money, but actually makes money while not employed by the state, which means, that attacks are not traced back to government computers! This is particularly confusing to many Westerners who cannot imagine a government to be associated with robbers and criminals. Russia has a very professional outlook to its cyber program where up to twelve institutes provide top instruction to the graduates in dual use of information security and electronic warfare technologies. After graduation, these students usually end up joining the Security services and Ministry of Defense where they play a crucial part in the offensive and defensive operations.

With its capabilities and its determination, Russia is a major cyber challenge to the United States at this time. The PwC Global State of Information Security Survey 2015 found that U.S. information security budgets have grown at almost double the rate of IT budgets over the last two years. The government also works to increase educational basis in cyber security sphere and to identify or reinforce the level of cyber knowledge of their personnel. For instance, the U.S. Cyber Command, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy after 2010, have all made progress in preparing troops for cyber conflict. “Treating cyberspace as a domain means that the military needs to operate and defend its networks and to organize, train and equip our forces to perform cyber missions,”[4] then Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn said. For instance, now, The U.S. Air Force Academy offers a new cyber education major for cadets, which aims to develop students’ knowledge in reverse software engineering and virus and malware analysis for use in protecting military command and control activities against crime and espionage. The Army already has a growing number of cyber professionals and military specialties do not necessarily guarantee continued learning in that field. For example, a soldier with a cryptologic network warfare specialist, for instance, may work within the Army’s intelligence branch and develop a knowledge base in cyber defense and network operations. But without a specified professional path, that soldier could be reassigned to another career field. It is worth mentioning that, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) leads the nation in cybersecurity education programs, and is one of 47 programs in the U.S. designated as a Center of Excellence in Information Assurance Research by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. The Army has also partnered with technology companies, including Microsoft, Cisco Systems and NetApp, to get product training and certifications to its soldiers. The service’s innovative course for cyber defense warrant officers, which launched in 2009, has been successful and we should share this experience and implement it in our country as well.

The functional needs and national interests to control the new battle field - cyber space are globally acknowledged, which is why information and communication technologies are regarded as the core arsenal of military capabilities, functions, and operations. Over the past decade, cyber operations have become an increasingly important part of Georgia’s military capabilities. There is a rising threat from cyber warfare, including threats to military and federal government networks, as well as potential attacks on the Georgian economy, infrastructure, and business. It follows that current warfare is not limited to only military personnel, but all employees with special knowledge and skills in information security may be of crucial importance in handling cyber security issues and execution of cyber-attacks. As cyber threats continue to evolve, the nation’s protection against them relies on qualified cybersecurity professionals and more importantly on the military personnel who can defend country in the digital and cyber spaces. In this case, an individual, especially military, who is not aware of cyber challenges, and does not implement basic cybersecurity practices faces greater personal risk on and offline, such as identity theft, when engaging in daily online tasks and putting in danger country’s national interests. Without sufficient awareness of the risks in cyberspace unseen threats can negatively impact the security of our country’s national cyber space. This fact imposes great danger to the national security as all operations currently performed by the militaries are cyberspace dependent so the requirement for adaptive and self-learning security becomes crucial.

And right now, the level of awareness about cyber environment in Georgia is low among the civil and military sectors as well, making it difficult to introduce far-reaching education and training strategies for individuals and militaries. As the importance of cyber operations in national security grows, the Georgian responsibility to train individuals and especially militaries in cyber skills and ensure a robust cyber workforce becomes increasingly important in protecting the nation. In such case the main question to ask is about the role of the military in “defending the nation” against cyber threats, in what manner can this be achieved and how computer literate are the officers to develop necessary cyber skills?

The hybrid war that Georgia faced for 3 weeks in 2008 is a good example of importance of cyberspace for national security. Russia-Georgia war showed us how Russia can combine perfectly kinetic and cyber operations. Despite the fact that in 2008 Georgian ICT sector showed Georgia had just 10 Internet users per 100 people,[5] which meant that Georgia had lack of overall dependence on IT-based infrastructure, the damage was high. The nation’s possibilities to distribute information about the ongoing military conflict in “making its voice heard” to the world were limited. Indeed, we recognize that one of the main reasons we fail in cyber space was: strong internet interconnection dependency on Russia; lack of qualified cyber specialists and limited use of cyber capabilities in military forces.

Therefore we are confident that the military personnel must have an opportunity to learn the foundational ICT skills for a career in military space or cybersecurity. Any education that moves your workforce a step closer to understanding the complexities of the cyber security field will contribute toward the progress of government’s security programs and policy. Our government recognizes that a better understanding of cyber security for militaries is critical at even the basic level. First because the ICT education enables militaries to protect and enable one’s own networks and network-based service and recognizing cyberspace is more than just these computer networks, as even networks that are not directly connected to the internet may be potentially accessed or attacked using electromagnetic energy to damage electronic components of the network. This is an important thing to be noted for the military. Second, officer education needs to deal with the deviating views of the cyber space and its elements. For instance, cyber space can be regarded as information infrastructure attached to the Earth and also as information networks without any distance concept. The demands of understanding and awareness of cyber concepts, capabilities, and threats do not fundamentally differ from the educational requirements of mastering other operating environments and capabilities. Therefore, contemporary armed forces need to possess situational awareness beyond their immediate tasks and duties. Any contemporary operation or up-to-date combat is likely to involve cyber components, which requires a fundamental understanding of technology and IoT and a developed understanding of its use. Therefore, an understanding of cyber capabilities and assets, their potential use in operations is essential for service and joint level staff officers and commanders. Officers, regardless of their rank or position, must be able to analyze their operational environments and duties from a cyber-perspective and be aware of the basic cyber capabilities. Most serious militaries have some cyber capability or are inspired to develop one in order to support the fighting on the battlefield and to defend their own systems during peacetime. Field commanders, for instance, are required to actively pursue cyber actions in their missions and within their area of operations. They need to understand the potential political and legal consequences of the decisions and actions, for example, wiping out all local communications relating to third party infrastructure. Commanders must be able to estimate when it is safe to assume or accept a cyber-risk. Without such a skill, it will be difficult for officers to make relevant decisions and avoid putting their operation under risk. Commanders also need to ask about IP security, patching, or radio frequency identification attacks against their own systems as they need to be aware of casualties, consumption, or morale.

Usually in smaller countries, like Georgia, for instance, officers are educated as generalists and are expected to cover broad fields of expertise during their service. They are often required to perform functions up to two levels above their rank. Currently, due to the lack of prior systematic cyber security and defense education, the joint and senior level audience is often required to work through weeks of learning and study material in a few days or even hours. In order to achieve necessary level of cyber awareness and get skills required to complete up-to-date operations including cyber elements, officers have to add up to 5 to 6 weeks of intensive studies of cyber security. Ideally, there should be a focus on the full cycle of officer education rather than attempt to revisit the same items at all level of studies, but officers usually do not have so much time for learning as they are constantly serving nation’s interests performing operations to defend them.

We suffer from a lack of a qualified personnel, as there are no currently formal programs and trainings to maintain the skills of cyber personnel we should think about ourselves. Another issue we should pay attention to is that high rank militaries serving our countries interests are from another generation, which means it is difficult for them to handle new types of cyber problems. We should offer awareness raising programs in cyber security field for all the military personnel and civil officers working in the defense space as well, rather than just tactical-technical or strategic-conceptual level cyber training and education. Also, we should establish IT/Cybersecurity training programs for initial and mid personnel, and awareness raising programs for senior-level military personnel as well as additional training for continuous development. The courses also should include more technical training that teaches how information systems work, where their vulnerabilities are, how those weaknesses are exploited and how to minimize exploitation. Even they should recognize what happened behind the social media curtain, it is one thing to be a good end user, but it is another to understand how technology works and utilize that knowledge to make decisions. So-called cyber hygiene should be a key component of training the militaries. Training should be provided for warrant officer and officer personnel based on their chosen functional area, as well. Georgia will do everything in its might to offer officers relevant education and training so that they can play dignified professional roles in our society, be productive citizens of the Georgian nation, and earn a living for themselves and their families. To this end, Cyber Security Bureau of the Georgian Ministry of Defense has developed a proposal for the Georgian Wounded Warrior Program. The effect of military cyber education is its impact on transitioning veterans interested in competing for cleared cyber careers over the next few years. The field is among the fastest growing career fields and relatively new, meaning education and certification count more than experience.

In order for Georgia to protect our interests in the 21st century, a new workforce needs to be educated and the current workforce needs additional skills, especially in the military sector. We must build a digitally literate workforce that uses technology in a secure manner. For that reason we should also cooperate with institution providing relevant cyber and ICT education. For instance, such institutes as the SANS Institute, which is one of leading in the cyber education industry is blazing a trail in military cyber training. For instance institute's NetWars, an online attack and cyber defense competition that the Air Force has adapted to train students and assess their readiness for cyber combat.

Therefore, the main goal of the Government should be to strengthen cyber education and training across the military. To this end our recommendations, and more correctly goals, are:

· Identify and fill gaps in cybersecurity skills training of military forces to support identified workforce needs;

· Inspire cybersecurity career awareness, exploration, and preparedness within military personnel;

· Stimulate approaches and techniques that can more rapidly increase the supply of qualified military workers with cyber skills;

· Reduce the time and cost for obtaining knowledge, skills, and abilities for militaries working closely with cyber security and ICT;

· Encourage creative and effective efforts to increase the number of militaries and veterans with cyber skills;

· Provide additional specialized training and mission-specific cyber trainings to increase the ability of militaries to handle critical situations in cyber space;

· Invest extensively in the cyber training corps and encourage new forms of education and training like cyber simulation, exercises.

To sum up, we are aware of the fact that promoting and expanding cybersecurity education is essential to protecting the Nation’s critical infrastructure and therefore it is national interest. And the problem of current leadership is not having even a basic understanding of how the cyber domain should be to some extent resolved within the next decade. And the point is that militaries are mission-oriented and are structured to develop the personnel required, this is all exactly what you would want for an effective cyber defense force.

Therefore it is very important to solve some practical questions concerning military education institutions through cyber security and defense. To develop a more resilient and capable cyber nation, we must have a highly-skilled cybersecurity workforce across industry and government. But currently, many military personnel who want to obtain their IT and cyber skills they must be trained from zero or from a very low skill level to become at least aware of cyber security space and basic IT knowledge. That is why it is of crucial importance that officer education at joint and senior levels should be aimed to develop understanding of concepts, knowledge of the use of cyber capabilities in military operations, and the ability to design and define strategies, policies, and future capabilities.

Cyber defense and military cyber security need to be outlined in the context of the full spectrum of cyber security concerns reaching from basic cyber hygiene to civil-military cooperation and cyber diplomacy without.

We should make cyber security and cyber defense more concrete and understandable, identifying relevant capabilities at small unit, larger brigade and national levels. When are we going to achieve our goal? As an ancient proverb tells us, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now."

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