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[] Irak: Cyberwarriors guard virtual front,

Cyberwarriors guard virtual front

By Dan Caterinicchia 
March 31, 2003

FARWANIYA, Kuwait - As coalition forces continue to engage the enemy
throughout Iraq, the number of battles being fought in cyberspace also
has risen, according to one Army information assurance officer.

Col. Mark Spillers, information assurance program manager in the
Coalition Forces Land Component Command communications office at Camp
Doha, Kuwait, said there has been a slight increase in cyberattacks
against coalition systems since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, "but
all along there have been pretty active attempts."

"These could be casual [probes], and sometimes we don't know if it's
hackers trying to come in or simple scans," Spillers said during a
March 29 phone interview. If a device is thought to be compromised, it
is immediately isolated, taken off the network and scanned for
viruses, but "we've done well to prevent that from becoming a

Spillers, a reservist with the 335th Signal Command in Atlanta, has
been in Kuwait for about two months. He said he could not go into any
details about how the Army is protecting its systems or if any have
been compromised, but he noted, "We're holding our own."

"With anything with cyberwarfare, the enemy is all around and we're
constantly working to stay one step ahead of them," he said. "Sensors
are constantly monitoring for scans or intrusion attempts against us."

On the physical battlefield, if troops are in danger of being
defeated, procedures are in place to safeguard or even destroy
endangered equipment and systems to keep sensitive data from falling
into enemy hands.

For example, machines linked to the Defense Department's Secret
Internet Protocol Router Network have removable hard drives, Spillers
said, adding that similar protections exist for cryptographic tools in
the field.

In addition to blocking electronic hacking and physical attempts to
overrun their systems, the Army also must protect its information
technology equipment from another constant nuisance: sand. When
equipment is moved, it is kept covered, and cans of compressed air are
constantly used to blow sand and dust out of keyboards and other
devices. Back at the camps, most servers, routers and PCs are kept in
environmentally controlled facilities, Spillers said, adding that
excessive heat is also a growing concern.

"In general, we've had several years' experience with this going back
to the Gulf War, and we've done a good job keeping [problems caused
by] environmental conditions to a minimum," he said.

If a machine does break down, he said the service follows
fix-and-replace procedures specific to the equipment. A help desk is
set up at Camp Doha to deal with IT issues, and he said the Army has a
"very decentralized network support structure" so forward-deployed
computer users can get their questions answered and problems fixed at
a local level.

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