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Massachusetts Guard Cyber Team Helps Town Check Security

  • Published
  • By Sgt. 1st Class Steven Eaton,
  • Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs

TEWKSBURY, Mass. – Four Massachusetts National Guard members worked with the Town of Tewksbury to identify weaknesses in their cybersecurity and suggest improvements.

Two Soldiers and two Airmen conducted the assessments as part of the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training program. The program enables military units to use federally funded training time on approved community projects. 

Historically, IRT has provided physical infrastructure improvements by engineer units throughout Massachusetts. Guardsmen train on their military occupational specialty skills in a real-world environment, using their knowledge to help local communities.

The cybersecurity team, led by Lt. Col. Chris Elgee, a cyber officer with the Massachusetts National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, spent two weeks reviewing the town’s cybersecurity plan, probing for weaknesses, and identifying proactive measures.

“The town is doing great,” said Elgee. “There’s a big opportunity for more to be done. No one is ever at the end of their cybersecurity journey; there’s always further to go.”

The National Guard team praised the town’s efforts and suggested an additional exercise to test and improve cybersecurity.

“We recommend at some point in the next year, exercising that cybersecurity incident response,” said Elgee. “Setting up some kind of tabletop exercise to do two things: to make sure it fits for the town and for your requirements but also to make sure the key players know they have a role in it. If the next big cyber thing happens in Tewksbury, the directors in different sectors know what their job is.”

The training was also a test to see if the Guard could run this program in communities across Massachusetts.

“We overstaffed this mission to do a proof of concept. [We asked] How can the Mass Guard plug in on state active duty or the IRT program and really help the Commonwealth,” said Lt. Col Timothy Hunt, a cybersecurity officer with the Massachusetts National Guard.

Hunt’s goal is to bring the Guard’s skills to Massachusetts cities and towns.

“We want to identify places where we bring unique skills such as operational technology assessments for critical infrastructure. That’s something we focus on during our Cyber Yankee exercise and a lot of our Soldiers and Airmen have that niche capability,” he said.

People attending a briefing about the IRT program included representatives of the Massachusetts Cyber Center, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, selectmen from the Town of Tewksbury, and Secretary Jason Snyder, Massachusetts Technology Services and Security.

“This is wonderful. It’s great work,” said Snyder. “There’s so much knowledge gained and so much planning for the future. It really does benefit the Commonwealth tremendously.”