A HISTORIC Air Force Squadron is now at the leading edge of defending deployed units against cyberspace attacks.
Originally formed in 1942 as a bomber unit, No. 462 Squadron (462SQN) now forms part of the Air Warfare Centre’s Directorate of Information Warfare.
It has now returned to operations, this time sending Deployable Assessment & Remediation Teams (DARTs) to the Middle East Region.
The first team – called DART-A – deployed in October and November 2016.
Officer in Charge of DART-A, Flying Officer Jordan Plotnek, said his team consisted of cyberspace security specialists focused on identifying vulnerabilities and risks.
“This is the first time an Air Force team has been deployed to look specifically at the cyberspace security of Air Force mission systems.”
“Previously, we have conducted all security tasks on systems from within Australia prior to the systems' deployment.
“We’ve also previously contributed members to joint teams that have assessed deployed units.”
Communication and Information Systems (CIS) are ubiquitous in modern operations, from daily administration, logistics and operational planning, through to aircraft maintenance support and mission systems.
All of these systems are viewed by opposing forces as valid targets for exploitation of information, denial of service, or outright attack.
“It’s our role to ensure Air Force can conduct missions safely and securely, with limited impact from the cyberspace domain,” Flying Officer Plotnek said.
“We conducted vulnerability, threat, and risk assessments of Air Force mission systems.”
“DART-A's primary task whilst here is to give senior leaders the ability to understand and, if required, address any risks posed to air operations from the cyberspace domain,”
The DART is also intended to support existing CIS elements that form the backbone of deployed operations today.
“Although CIS and System Managers are responsible for maintaining their own cyberspace security posture on a routine basis, the 462SQN DART teams provide subject matter expert advice,” Flying Officer Plotnek said.
“We analyse the security posture of specific systems in order to help improve Air Force's cyberspace resilience at the system-level.”
“In the rare cases where lapses in the cyberspace security posture of IT systems may be found, the team provides expert advice and assistance in remediating the issues as quickly as possible.”
It’s not the first time that 462SQN has stood at the forefront of providing cutting edge defence during operations.
Formed in 1942 in North Africa, 462SQN was soon using its Halifax four-engined bombers to fly some of the world’s first airborne electronic warfare missions over Occupied Europe.
Crews were tasked with dropping large strips of aluminium foil that confused enemy radars and allowed large bomber formations to reach their targets.
The nature of 462SQN’s work today could barely be imagined during the Second World War, however the squadron retains close historical links to its forebears.
“During the War, each 462SQN aircraft in the squadron had a letter for its identification – A for Able, B for Baker, and so on,” Flying Officer Plotnek said.
“The second A in DART-A stands for ‘Able’, and is changed on each deployment in memory of 462SQN’s history as a bomber squadron during World War Two.”
Article by Flight Lieutenant Eamon Hamilton