Retired colonel talks cyber-defense

Edward McFadden – Staff Writer

CLARION, Pa.- Retired Colonel Carmine Cicalese spoke to Clarion students about career opportunities in the still-young Cyber Missions Force of the Department of Defense and answered questions related to cybersecurity and the ethics of the digital world.

The Cyber Missions Force began in 2012 following a directive from the Secretary of Defense; Cicalese played an integral part in forming the force. Serving as chief of Cyberspace and Information Operations for four years in the Army, Cicalese has a storied past.

Cicalese has personal connections with Clarion’s Joseph Croskey of the Student Success Center. Croskey and Cicalese graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1968, as noted by Croskey himself, who was present to officiate the talk.

Before speaking about the Cyber Missions Force, the former colonel gave an informative speech on the three subsystems of the cyber operations of the Department of Defense: offensive cyberspace operations, defensive cyberspace operations and information network operations.

Each of these three divisions was said to have critical roles in defending United States networks from destructive forces and protecting American interest abroad. The defensive cyberspace operations portion serves the focal point of most operations.

Cicalese carefully pointed out that the internet is a public domain, and as such, is subject to some degree of lawlessness or unintentional consequences of cyber operations. The U.S. code-based authorities are important in detailing the acceptable range of action to which that the government limits itself,and Title 40 was cited as a very important line in the sand. Title 40 establishes standards for obtaining digital information throughout all federal government agencies.

Recent major new headlines and current events made for an engaged conversation with the crowd of mostly computer science and information systems majors. Cicalese suggested that one of the most important potential threats to American cyber security was Russian cyberattacks, or hackings.

He referenced the allegations that Russian government intervened in the election process by hacking into the Democratic National Convention. He called Russia a good example of an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT), and said that the Department of Defense will continue to keep an eye on Russia.

Other threats mentioned were Stuxnet, the malicious digital weapon that played part in a cyberattack on Iran in 2010 and organizations like Anonymous.

This is where the Cyber Missions Force comes in: to respond to these threats. The fledgling force currently employs between 6,500 and 7,000 people, Cicalese estimated.  Nearly 20 percent of whom are civilians. No military experience is required for the job position.

The Cyber Missions Force is projected to have 133 teams by 2018. Four categories divide teams by function: National Mission Teams defend the U.S. and its interests from cyberattacks, Cyber Protection Teams defend Department of Defense networks, Combat Mission Teams provide support to military combatants, and Support Teams provide planning and analysis for the Combat Mission Teams.

Cicalese went on to say that it is a good field to pursue. He said the job prospects are good, reporting that there are currently more job openings than eligible graduates in recent years.

Institutions that have been accredited with the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) certificate for Center of Academic Excellence can provide students with the most exhaustive set of experience and education to be qualified for these positions, Cicalese said, but it is not required.

The only accredited program in Pennsylvania currently is Carnegie Mellon University’s master’s in science in information security and cyber operations. But Cicalese continued by saying that looking into a degree in cyber defense or cyber forensics would help applicants a lot.

Other things that applicants can do is get certified as a CISSP or certified information systems security professional. This certification requires a minimum of five years of work experience in certain domains and a passing score on the CISSP exam.

During the talk, Cicalese displayed a cartoon exaggerating America’s focus on physical security and the right to bear arms, while lacking in cyber security. He made it clear that a new age of technology calls for advanced cyber defense systems, and the growing Cyber Defense Force, Cicalese said, is an important first step.

More information about the Cyber Defense Force can be found on the Department of Defense website.

You May Also Like