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ARMY NATIONAL GUARD

THE ARMY NATIONAL GUARD’S CYBERSECURITY RESPONSE

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

DIGITAL REPORT 2020


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THE ARMY NATIONAL GUARD’S CYBERSECURITY RESPONSE WRITTEN BY

JOHN O’HANLON PRODUCED BY

MIKE SADR

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TECHNOLOGY MAGAZINE LEARNS FROM LT COL WOODY GROTON, CIO OF THE NH ARMY NATIONAL GUARD, ABOUT INTERSTATE COLLABORATION AND THE ANNUAL CYBER YANKEE EXERCISE

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t hardly needs to be said that human conflict has over the last couple of decades shifted from military confrontation

of the kind seen in the wars of the last century to 04

more complex and subtle platforms. Nations still spend significant proportions of GDP on defence hardware, but have woken up in the present century to the fact that more can be done to destabilise, weaken, threaten or confuse other nations or groups of nations by targeting the core systems and communications everyone relies on today. In the United States, the Army National Guard is, with the Regular army and the Reserves, a key branch of the armed services, with 337,000 personnel on call nationally. Community-based, units report to the governor of their respective states unless called to protect US domestic or national interests at times of conflict or natural disaster. “Always ready, always there.� The Guard has, like the rest of the U.S. military (not to mention business and the rest of society), had to evolve rapidly into


“CYBER SECURITY IS INTEGRATED INTO EVERYTHING WE DO” Lt Col Woody Groton, CIO, NH National Guard

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Lt Col Woody Groton with Senator Maggie Hassan

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“WE WORK VERY CLOSELY WITH THE ELECTRICAL POWER AND WATER INDUSTRIES” Lt Col Woody Groton, CIO, NH National Guard

the digital era, and one of its key tasks today is to always be ready to foresee and defend against threats to the nation that come from cyberspace. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a natural disaster, has given rise to uncertainties that could be exploited by an attacker, whether motivated by criminal or political goals. For example, imagine that a hospital system might be targeted at this time, muses Lt Col Woody Groton, Chief Information Officer of the New Hampshire Army National

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Guard. As a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Groton leads a team of IT professionals responsible for the Guard’s network and ensures its readiness to counter any threat. “Cyber security is integrated into everything we do. With IoT permeating everything, almost any activity you care to name could potentially be disrupted, so network modernisation is one of the top U.S. Army priorities currently.” The Army’s cloud strategy isn’t too different from that of any large business or organisation, partnering with names like Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft,


E X E C U T I V E P R OF IL E :

Lieutenant Colonel Woody Groton Title: CIO / Cyber Officer Location: Sunapee, New Hampshire Lieutenant Colonel Woody Groton has served in the United States Army for over 20 years. He is an Army Cyber Officer currently assigned as the Chief Information Officer for the New Hampshire Army National Guard as well as the commander of the 195th Regiment, Regional Training Institute. He also serves as the Chair of the New Hampshire Information Technology Council. LTC Groton has a Master’s of Science in Information Assurance/ Cybersecurity from Regis University, a Master’s in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College, and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science from Loyola University Maryland. He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional and Certified Information Systems Auditor. LTC Groton is the current Exercise Director for Cyber Yankee, which in 2020 is part of the FEMA National Exercise Program. He is considered an expert at whole of government response to cyber-attack against critical infrastructure and state/local government. His awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal for Valor, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault badge, and the Joint Staff Identification Badge.

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AWS and others. “The networking infrastructure we use is all the same. Our logistics system or our new integrated personnel and pay system for example are semi-custom implementations of best-in-breed systems from the likes of SAP, PeopleSoft or Microsoft.” The recently concluded Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract awarded to Microsoft in 2019, against hot competition from

“FOR SOME OF THE SMALLER UTILITIES, PARTICIPATING IN CYBER YANKEE IS A LEARNING OPPORTUNITY THAT LINKS THEM WITH LARGER PLAYERS AND HELPS THEM PROTECT ALL OF THEIR CUSTOMERS”

AWS, is a huge step toward placing cloud-enabled technologies like AI at the service of the Department of

Lt Col Woody Groton, CIO, NH National Guard w w w.c o mpa ny we bsite. nh . n gcom . m il


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Defense (DoD). “The one part we keep

“ THE RELATIONSHIPS WE HAVE BUILT HERE IN NH ARE REALLY IMPORTANT. WE HAVE MUTUAL TRUST AND REAL FRIENDSHIP”

firmly in-house is in the cryptology piece, and for our classified networks of course we work with the National Security Agency.” From its inception in 2015, Groton has been a key leader in the annual Cyber Yankee Exercise across the six New England states. This, he explains, is an initiative which coordinates the National Guard’s cybersecurity

Lt Col Woody Groton, CIO, NH National Guard

response team (its ‘Blue Team’) with entities outside of the DoD from national agencies like DHS, FBI,


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FEMA and U.S. Cyber Command to a

of the participants don’t have the

broad range of local and regional gov-

resources to put together a cybersecu-

ernment, law enforcement, academic

rity exercise with over 300 participants,

and commercial bodies as well as

a virtual network range and a live

private companies. “As an example, in

opposing force. That includes some

2019 the U.S. Army account manager

of the smaller utilities; for them, par-

for Tenable reached out to us and

ticipating in Cyber Yankee is a learning

became a very valuable participant in

opportunity that links them with larger

the exercise, offering additional cyber-

players and helps them protect all of

security tools. Likewise, we’ve worked

their customers.”

closely with Cisco Systems among

A simulated but realistic threat is

other major players over the years.”

put forward, and these partners are

The Guard works with regional utilities from critical infrastructure. “A lot

invited to test their ability to respond effectively. “We work very closely with nh . n g . m il


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“W HEN WE HAVE A PROBLEM WE SOLICIT SOLUTIONS FROM THE TEAM RATHER THAN DIRECTING THEM IN ANY PARTICULAR WAY!” Lt Col Woody Groton, CIO, NH National Guard

applies right across the region. For example, the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority utility has been an important partner over the years, inviting guardsmen in to review its operational technology systems, since a cyber incident at any utility could be crippling for the entire community.” For now, COVID is keeping people at home but Cyber Yankee needs to go ahead as soon as it is safe to do so, to give new soldiers and airmen coming

the electrical power and water indus-

into the services the cybersecurity

tries,” he says. “Engineers from these

training they need and to cement

utilities participate in the exercise to

third party relationships for the future,

see how ready critical infrastructure

Groton believes. “But you can be

is to face any attack.” So, training is a

assured we are in a state of heightened

clear goal of Cyber Yankee. However,

awareness and preparedness, at times

Gorton is keen to stress the benefits

like this pandemic crisis, to meet any

of deepening relationships between

attempts to take advantage of the dis-

all interested parties at a regional level,

traction it provides.”

and this has been brought into sharp

The National Guard has some

focus by the current COVID-19 crisis, in

amazing talent within its network,

response to which the entire exercise

he emphasises, with some of the

has been put on hold until July 2020.

smartest and most experienced

“The relationships we have built here in

penetration testing, cyber intelligence

NH, for example with the State CIO or

and encryption professionals. Groton

the Chief Information Security Officer

is passionate about his team, and

(CISO) are really important. We have

for a career soldier he is refreshingly

mutual trust and real friendship. That

democratic in his approach. “Rank is w w w.c o mpa ny we bsite. nh . n gcom . m il

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not really relevant, because we have extremely capable IT professionals here, whose entire focus is technology. When we have a problem we solicit solutions from the team rather than directing them in any particular way!� You might think the army was not the natural home for a geek, he jokes, but in the best sense of that word the Guard attracts people who relish the most intractable problems, and will work all hours till they are solved. So compelling is the need to guard the whole of society against disruption, that the U.S. Army Cyber Command, formed in 2009, is now changing its name to the Army Information Warfare Command. The level of threat from malicious actors, whether state proxies, criminals or financial opportunists will continue to increase exponentially, Woody Groton predicts, making it vital that the National Guard always keeps several steps ahead of them.

The DoD and the NHNG does not endorse (expressly or by implication) any Non-Federal Entities referenced in this article. The views presented are those of the author or LTC Groton and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components. nh . n g . m il

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ARMY NATIONAL GUARD 1 MINUTEMAN WAY, CONCORD NH 03301 USA T 603-225-1200

https://nh.ng.mil

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Army National Guard - June 2020  

Army National Guard - June 2020  

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