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Securing the Future:140th Cyber Operations Squadron Educates and Recruits at Open House

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Anna-kay Ellis
  • 108th Wing

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. -- Every year, millions of Americans have their personal data compromised online. On June 8, 2024, the 140th Cyber Operations Squadron held an open house to educate members on the common cyber dangers they may encounter. 

The open forum event also served as an opportunity to engage with members who are interested in a cyber career.  "We are always on the lookout for members who are interested in joining our mission," said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Motta, 140th COS, senior enlisted leader. "It was great getting the opportunity to speak with and assist them."

Held during the 108th Wing’s June Unit Training Assembly, the Open House was a collaboration between the Wing's Mentoring Council and the 140th COS. The forum included two unclassified briefings on the unit's mission, followed by demonstrations with real-world devices used by adversaries. The attendees learned that constant accessibility to Wi-Fi, while undoubtedly a great convenience, can be easily exploited by malicious actors.    

Motta explains that these professional networks "use a variety of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs)  to capitalize on vulnerabilities, gain unauthorized access, exfiltrate data, disrupt services, or cause damage to systems and networks." Most pointedly, the Wi-Fi Pineapple, a small hardware device, can be used to create rogue access points, which are illegitimate Wi-Fi networks designed to mirror legitimate ones. These networks can lure unsuspecting users into connecting to the rogue access point, allowing an attacker to intercept and manipulate their network traffic. "Connecting to a Wi-Fi Pineapple can have serious consequences, as it can expose sensitive information, compromise your device, and enable unauthorized access to your online accounts," said Motta.

The risk and challenges of cyber attacks are omnipresent. So much so that the Office of the National Cyber Director presented its first-ever report on the cyber security posture of the United States to the President and Congress. The 2024 Report identified challenges including the increased risk to critical infrastructure and supply chain, and increased incidents of ransomware that pose significant threats to U.S. national security, public safety, and economic prosperity. To stymie such challenges, the Biden-Harris administration recommends recruiting and positioning the best talent in cyberspace, in both the public and private sector, amongst other measures. 

One of 16 Air National Guard Cyber Protection Teams that defend networks and systems against threats, the 140th COS has proven itself to be a formidable ally in the fight against cyber attacks. Recognized in Congress for its work with State Partner Nation Albania, the unit is accustomed to conducting workshops in an effort to build global resilience in cybersecurity.

The June open forum may be the first of more to come as careers in cybersecurity are expected to grow by 32% from 2022-2032, according to the U.S. Bureau of labor statistics. Even if you're not a cybersecurity expert , "it is important to be cautious when connecting to Wi-Fi networks, especially public ones," said Motta. "You should always use strong passwords, enable encryption, and avoid transmitting sensitive information over unsecured networks. Additionally, you should regularly monitor your devices for signs of infection and take appropriate security measures, such as using antivirus software and keeping your software up to date."