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Staff Sgt. Michael Torres, left, a data systems administrator for Defensive Cyberspace Operations-Internal Defensive Measures Company A, 6th Communication Battalion, discusses his network hacking plans during Cyber Yankee 23 at Camp Nett, Connecticut, May 25, 2023. Reserve Marines with DCO-IDM Company B, and the newly created Marine Innovation Unit, participated in Cyber Yankee as the "red team," simulating a cyberspace attack against a power utility grid. This exercise allowed Reserve Marines to integrate with their active-duty counterparts and joint partners to help develop practices in defense against cyber-attacks.

Photo by Courtesy Photo

Cyber Yankee 23

9 Jun 2023 | Lance Cpl. Ashley Corbo The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Reserve Marines with Defensive Cyberspace Operations-Internal Defensive Measures Companies A and B, 6th Communication Battalion and Marine Innovation Unit participated in Cyber Yankee at Camp Net, CT, May 14-28, 2023.Cyber Yankee is a force-on-force regional, joint-service exercise that simulates a nation launching a cyber-attack on public utilities. This exercise gave Reserve Marines a unique opportunity to act as an attacking force against the other the branches of service as well as advise and help increase the skill level of the opposing teams.

The goal of Cyber Yankee is to train military cyber operators, local, state, and federal level government officials, and private companies how to defend themselves from a cyber-attack. Marines played a vital role in making the exercise come to life.

Marines from MIU served as technical advisors and worked to advance public and private partnerships that are focused on the mission of securing and defending our nation's critical infrastructure, while Marines from DCO-IDM Companies A and B acted as the attacking force.

 “We are the protectors. Think of an anti-virus software on your home computer that keeps the ‘bad things out.'" 1st Sgt. Jason Foust, company first sergeant of DCO-IDM Co. A

“MIU provided instruction on securing and defending Operational Technology networks and the Industrial Control Systems that run our critical infrastructure,” said Maj. Michael Frank, the command control computing communication cyber intelligence surveillance reconnaissance and targeting lead at MIU. “MIU also leverages Reserve Marines' civilian and military professional networks to connect the dots between advanced technology development and strategic priorities.”

MIU introduced ICS Village, a non-profit organization focused on training cyber defenders on ICS Terrorist technical tasks and procedures, to Cyber Yankee. These volunteers helped operators understand the unique failure modes of these systems and how to better prepare and respond to the changing threat landscape by brining a 3D interactive model and providing a clear visual of the physical effects a cyber attack has the potential to cause.

“Innovation is a two-way street, there are a lot of requests for innovators that come in and create new capabilities through skill sets the Maines may have acquired from their civilian careers,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Sarich an innovation laboratory specialist at MIU.

​With most of the Marines participating in Cyber Yankee also working in cyber security in the civilian sector, they provide an added advantage of keeping up with the industry standards to stay competitive with new cyber threats.

“We are always looking for Marines who want to join. One of the Marines at Cyber Yankee is actually an [infantry Marine] by trade but he does IT things on the side,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Foust, company first sergeant of DCO-IDM Co. A. “It doesn’t really matter what your [military occupational specialty] is, if you know how to conduct Defensive Cyberspace Operation missions, we want you to join us.”

​DCO missions include using internal countermeasures and responses to eliminate threats and mitigate their effects daily; DCO-IDM companies are the real-life blue teams working to defend our nations network security.

“We are the protectors. Think of an anti-virus software on your home computer that keeps the ‘bad things out,’” said Foust. “We ensure those types of tools are on your network, and if there is something bad, we go and search for it. We are always threat hunting and looking for threat actors. In the military we often say ‘intelligence drives operations’ so we take those intel reports to guide our hunting and defending.”