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“Cyber Warriors” Guard Against Electronic Attacks
Story Number: NNS050314-05
Release Date: 3/14/2005 10:01:00 PM

By Journalist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jennifer M. Zingalie, Naval Network Warfare Command Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The Navy Computer Incident Response Team (NAVCIRT) protects the security of the Navy’s networks by keeping constant watch for signs of electronic intrusions.

Based at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va., NAVCIRT’s Sailors analyze masses of incoming and stored data using real-time information obtained from the Navy’s networks.

“We defend the Navy’s networks against attack,” said Cryptologic Technician (Communications) 1st Class (SW) Arnel Oribello, an assistant watch supervisor for NAVCIRT’s watch floor. “We are proactive in finding vulnerabilities (weaknesses) and in putting a stop to intrusions which downgrade the Navy’s ability to communicate on its networks.”

When something is detected, Sailors on the watch floor alert affected commands worldwide that they’re under attack and advise them on how to stop the threat before it gets too far.

“We have sensors strategically placed on networks everywhere,” explained Cryptologic Technician (Maintenance) 1st Class Pamela Pirkle, assistant watch supervisor. “It’s sort of like having traffic cameras on the interstate. It gives us a ‘snapshot’ of incoming and outgoing traffic.”

Cryptologic Technician (Communications) 3rd Class Sheri Jones, a watch floor incident handler, explained that problems could arise from simply downloading unauthorized software and installing it on a government network.

“Any unauthorized software leaves a network wide open to hackers and intruders, and can allow an outsider access to a whole command," Jones said. "Even e-mails with attachments are dangerous and can contain viruses. One infected computer can cause a snowball affect.”

When a problem, abnormality or intrusion is discovered, an incident handler picks up the phone and alerts the command at risk. A naval message is also sent to ensure they have proper notification, along with recommendations to solve the problem. If an intrusion is severe enough and a network port has to be shut down to avoid further damage, NAVCIRT will send a “fly-away” team to assess the problem, repair the network and get it back online.

“Sailors must be aware; nothing is ever really 'safe,'” said Jones. “A computer is an official and critical tool for Sailors and must be treated as such. One slip-up could hurt the Navy physically or strategically.”

Some members of the watch floor have compared their work to being at general quarters (GQ) all the time. Sailors at GQ work to keep their ship from sinking, just as the ones of NAVCIRT work to keep the Navy’s lines of communications open.