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156th Comm. Flight Airmen create innovative software

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Luis Vega and Senior Airman Carlos Lopez, cybersecurity managers with the 156th Communications Flight, Puerto Rico Air National Guard, run software programs from a workstation at Muñiz Air National Guard Base, July 7, 2020.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Luis Vega and Senior Airman Carlos Lopez, cybersecurity managers with the 156th Communications Flight, Puerto Rico Air National Guard, run software programs from a workstation at Muñiz Air National Guard Base, July 7, 2020.

CAROLINA, Puerto Rico – Two Puerto Rico Air National Guard Airmen used a college capstone project to bring innovation to the 156th Wing, creating software that could reap big savings.

“We created a software that is a user-friendly interface for our help desk personnel, our server administrators and cybersecurity as a whole,” said Tech. Sgt. Luis Vega.

Vega and Senior Airman Carlos Lopez Camargo, both cybersecurity managers with the 156th Communications Flight, created software they call System Checker Plus. The program allows Communications Flight Airmen to remotely scan, identify, update and patch computers around the base without affecting the end-user.

The project began when Vega and Lopez saw an opportunity to help the communications focal point team patch and manage vulnerabilities at the 156th Wing and geographically separated units. The application started as secondary remediation support to the system center configuration manager for devices that were not automatically updating their systems. The idea was to reduce staffing and time to allow the CFP member to work on other duties while maintaining software vulnerabilities. They used coding knowledge gained from their programming and engineering majors to automate many of the tasks that were time-consuming for the CFP.

“We use the product remotely to execute whatever you need, and the user is not affected by it,” said Vega. “Before, the user would have to log out so the administrator could go in, patch the issue, restart the computer and then log out so you can work again. With the software we created, that all runs in the background.”

With an application like System Checker Plus, one person can take on multiple jobs that would typically require a larger workforce. Also, capabilities can expand as needed by communications flight personnel to accomplish more tasks as the network and situations evolve.

“So the application is for only one person to use and run the required network task or tasks to completion. Instead of five people, just one person can do it,” said Lopez.

This software provides the 156th Communications Flight tools to easily list all running software and connected hardware; run port scans; list quarantined computers; find inactive users and computers, and query for system information, among other tasks. It could potentially save the wing the cost of expensive similar software.

“We estimate that this software could save the wing around $350,000 a year and increase efficiencies,” said Vega.

Vega and Lopez believe Airmen throughout the wing will benefit and see the results from the automated patching and tracking of computer systems through System Checker Plus. The feedback Vega and Lopez received from their peers helped create software to accomplish network maintenance efficiently.

“It was mostly a team effort,” said Vega. “We took it as a project and we wanted to give this to the unit to help streamline the process and smooth out inefficiencies. The work in IT never stops.”

Vega and Lopez hope that once their app is tested thoroughly, they can present it through Airmen Powered by Innovation and share the software with other units in the National Guard Bureau.

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