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NEWS | June 10, 2022

Cyber Yankee 2022 Underway

By Staff Sgt. John Randall

NIANTIC, Conn. – National Guard cyber warriors from all six New England states, as well as members from the Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps are participating in Cyber Yankee 2022 on Camp Nett, here June 5-18, 2022.

“Cyber Yankee is an exercise that helps cyber operators develop experience in the field,” says Staff Sgt. John Young, a participant in this year’s exercise and member of the Connecticut National Guard. “What you get is the ability for cyber operators to see what kind of threats are out there, how they can mitigate those threats in a cyber environment, as well as getting experience collaborating with industry partners in critical fields for not just Connecticut but other states.”

Cyber Yankee is an annual exercise that began in 2015 and provides training for the National Guard’s Defensive Cyber Teams and to build working relationships and familiarity with industry partners.

“Eight years ago, the people before us decided there was a need for a cyber exercise due to a lack of availability to others,” says Lt. Col. Cameron Sprague, Exercise Director and member of the Connecticut Air National Guard.

“It truly is all New England and elements beyond New England,” Says Lt. Col. Ryan Miller, Coordinator and member of the Connecticut National Guard. “They will be paired up with mission partners from water, electrical, and gas pipeline and they’re going to be defending those networks, or responding to an already compromised network.”

The premise of the exercise is that an organization in a critical infrastructure sector is experiencing an intrusion from a nation-state on their network and has requested assistance from the National Guard.

“Perhaps a ransomware attack or some malware attack, and an attack against the human management interface,” says Miller. “How devastating that could potentially be for not only our local populace, but really our nation as a whole.”

Having a multi-state and joint force exercise is by design.

"Finding time and resources to provide beneficial training opportunities is scarce,” says Lt. Col. Karmin Ng, Deputy Exercise Director and member of Massachusetts National Guard. “So, if we can train as a region, we’ll be able to leverage more reasonable sources to get a better quality exercise.”

There are six teams during this exercise. The blue team are the “good guy,” and they are the ones being evaluated during this training. The orange team are industry partners assigned to blue teams. White team members role is to observe, control and evaluate. Red team are the “bad guys.” Gray team members maintain and operate the cyber range for the exercise. Finally, the joint operations center (JOC) simulates the actions of a JOC during a cyber-attack. The fusion of these cells incorporates interagency partners for sharing insights to coordinate across agency lines.

“This continues to be one of the most diverse, multi-agency, multi-sector, and multi-service exercise,” Ng says. “Whether it’s a state or a federal effort, the importance of being prepared to respond to a cyber incident is paramount.”

“The people that are here this week don’t have to be here,” says Sprague. “They don’t need to do this. They choose to be here to serve their country and to serve their communities.”