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NCNG’s Cyber Mission Continues Despite COVID-19 Disruptions

North Carolina National Guard (NCNG) and NC Division of Emergency Management hosted remote "virtual" cyber training for state, local and tribal government officials on May, 13 and 15, 2020. 

The more than 100 cyber experts from 61 different organizations or government agencies such as community colleges, law enforcement agencies, and county information technology specialists shared best practices during the two online sessions keeping critical relationships current and skills sharp.

Cyber experts connected via an application called WebEx, provided by the Department of Defense for cybersecurity training during COVID-19 and the social distancing and meeting restrictions.

“Cybersecurity is serious business,” Matt Chytka, a retired North Carolina Army National Guard (NCARNG) Lieutenant Colonel and member of the North Carolina Assessment and Assist Team.

The online sessions were a series of lectures, graphics, and practical exercises designed to improve member's Cyber Incident Response Plan (CIRP), which is a wide-ranging cyber incident approach addressing private sector, state, local, and tribal government’s cyber information cooperation and integration.

“We used our contacts from North Carolina Emergency Management, NC Department of Information Technology and Local Government Information Systems Association to invite everyone to the webinar using CISCO WebEx,” NC Army National Guard Maj. Justin Hillberry, a leader with NCNG’s cyber and information technology team.

Chytka discussed the fundamentals of the CIRP and how each step provides important guidance early during a cyber incident.

“Fast response is critical,” Chytka said.

He breaks down each step, highlighting the need to keep the plan up to date with contact rosters and critical information so any member of the organization can quickly find out what their immediate responsibilities are and who they should report to if there's a problem.

“Do not make the same person responsible for every problem or they will quickly be overwhelmed,” Chytka said.  

At the end of the session, a ‘what if’ scenario tested each member.  The responses highlighted the ability of each member to react to a larger, coordinated response.

“The members need opportunities like to attend training and improve the information-sharing regarding threats,” said Stephen Reeves, Associate Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer of the North Carolina Community College System.

Since 2018, the NC National Guard, NC Emergency Management, and the NC Dept. of Information Technology have responded to over 35 cyber incidents in the state and region.    ###