An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Features : Display
NEWS | Feb. 22, 2013

It takes IA to fight a war

By Tech. Sgt. April Wickes 633 Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Every day, the men and women of the U.S. Air Force are fighting a war using a high-tech weapons system without realizing it. It's a weapons system that needs to be protected at all cost, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Our network is just like any other weapon," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Scott A. Wagonblott, 633rd Communications Squadron wing information assurance manager. "We can fight wars through information technology and we can be attacked through it as well."

The information assurance office plays a role in protecting the network, but they can't do it alone.

"We are the protectors of the domain; we provide the standards, we give guidance and direction, we enforce that guidance and direction, but we are only as strong as our weakest link," said Wagonblott. "If we have one or two people that don't take it seriously, it's those one or two who will cause the weapons system to fail. Information assurance has to be invaluable to each person."

According to Wagonblott, information assurance is the all-encompassing protection of unclassified and classified data on all computer networks. It can be broken down into three primary elements or "IA core values:" confidentiality, integrity and availability.

Confidentiality - Securing and protecting our data from unauthorized means.

Integrity - Making sure information is always accurate; that nothing has been changed or modified.

Availability - Making sure information and resources are accessible when they're needed.

The IA core values can't work without the adhesive that holds them together, authentication and non-repudiation, said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Johnathan L. Rhodes, 633rd Communications Squadron officer in charge of wing information assurance.

Authentication - making sure the user is who they say they are.

Non-repudiation - making sure the user cannot deny what they did.

According to Roads, an easy way to understand authentication and non-repudiation is your common access card.

"You have your certificates on your CAC that ensure only you can send your e-mails and help people validate that it was you who sent the e-mails," said Rhodes.

Each person has different responsibilities in the Air Force, but we are all responsible for IA, said Wagonblott. Each job in the Air Force ties into the core values of IA. For example if you're an aircraft mechanic, manuals and technical orders may be information that needs to be protected using IA.

"If I work on airplanes for a living, I still work with data, I still have manuals that I have to maintain," said Wagonblott.

According to Wagonblott, if manuals need to be protected so someone from the outside can't access them, that's confidentiality.

"For the integrity piece, making sure the manual isn't missing a page could be the difference between a wing falling off a plane or not," he said. "As for availability, I also need to make sure that guys working on the jet are able to access that data."

Wagonblott also stated that each network user must know what their responsibilities are. Everyone in the Air Force, regardless if they are military, civilian or contractor must take information assurance training. Knowing what data is critical as well as knowing how to protect that data keeps our networks safe.

"We can have all the technology in the world but if our users are not paying heed to things that are going on in the world of IT, then ultimately our front door is wide open [to attack]," said Rhodes.

Wagonblott added that everyone needs to understand how important and critical IA is to the mission and the military as a whole.

"It takes you, me and everyone to focus on what's important, and that's the protection of our networks," said Wagonblott .