FEMA Trains Local IT Personnel for Cyber Security in Escambia County

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By Charles Davis, III

On Friday June 23rd, the Escambia County Public Safety Department hosted the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Cybersecurity Incident Response for IT personnel (FEMA).

With a grant won from the University of Arkansas this course was developed for cyber security specifically. Taking place from June 21st – 23rd, the IT teams had two days of classroom environment and training and on Friday, the third day, this exercise event allowed them to work in their different networks such as hospitals, 911 centers, business centers, and city halls. They played the roles of these organizations and figured out how to work together and how they should respond as a team to defeat any attacks.

This pilot course is geared towards cyber for the local IT people from the various local infrastructures in our local community.

The IT group this past Friday went through cyber scenarios and attacks all while using a cyber simulator that provides a real world infrastructure. They could do anything in the simulators without them doing anything to their production network.

“We bring them here and have them exposed to real world attacks, have them react, go through certain procedures without any fear of retribution to their production networks,” said Bill Dunn, Metova CyberCENTS President. “One of the things we’ve been through is the area that is prone to the attacks are the hardened ones,” Dunn continued.

Dunn goes on to say that people tend to really focus on the hardened areas and defend it but it’s the peripherals that are not as well protected, like the bus lines or the gas stations, no one really focuses on these areas. “We are here to connect those infrastructures. It’s a weaker link but they all tie together,” stated Dunn.

“There is a fight going on. It’s a fight for your information and it’s a fight for cyberspace,” said Doug Underhill, District 2 Chairman.

The rate of cyber-attacks are almost immeasurable. Unless you have a robust security system that alerts your system, you can be attacked and never even know it. A lot of adversaries attack home networks just to have a Hotpoint and move on to somebody else. With usually thousands of attacks going on at one time you really can’t say where they are and pinpoint them but many attacks that happen go unreported.

What can the average person do to protect themselves from attacks?  1) You need to care. When you care about making your network and systems safe you become more aware of the steps and efforts you need to know to make it harder on a cyber attacker to attack. 2) Have good “cyber hygiene”.

When you aren’t engaged in good “cyber hygiene” you make those resources easier for the bad guy to use. Ways to practice good cyber hygiene: Change your passwords monthly. Do not use the same password on many different sites.

“I will say this, cyber adversaries are agnostic to the clock and the map because cyber is a 365 day, 24 hour, worldwide thing,” Underhill continued.

Chairman Underhill goes on to explain that the cyberworld touches everybody’s world whether you think it does or not and as for being attacked, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. Every man, woman, and child with a smartphone can be touched in the cyber world with the potential of being attacked at any given moment.  It is critically important to take notice because we can not allow dangers and risks to exist in the cyber world that put Escambia county citizens at risk.

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