You won’t see it on the front page of the New York Times or the Washington Post, and it’s not featured as “Breaking News” on CNN or Fox News. But the truth is that the United States Navy—along with the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and scores of Federal agencies and thousands of private businesses—are under constant attack. The battlefield is cyberspace, and Sailors serving in the Information Systems Technician (IT) rating are part of the Navy’s frontline defenses against this ever-present danger.

Naval IT Security Technicians (and their submarine-based counterparts, IT Technicians) are responsible for utilizing the Navy’s Computer Network Defense (CND) programs to turn back the cyberattacks routinely launched against Navy and Marine Corps networks. What makes their mission so important is the very thing that has made the Navy increasingly efficient and agile in how it stores, transmits, deploys, analyzes, and share data: the implementation of a Naval Networking Environment.

Like other large organizations, the Navy and Marine Corps computer networks of the 1990s consisted of what is commonly referred to as “data silos,” where information stored in a particular application used by a branch or department could not be directly accessed for use by other segments of the service. In addition to the time and money spent in migrating data from one “silo” to another, fragmented data also meant that the Navy could not leverage the information for analysis and other purposes. The answer was to create “enterprise interoperability,” the ability for a broad array of applications to seamlessly share and update information, through a Naval Networking Environment known as the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI. With over 400,000 computers in 2500 locations around the world, the NMCI allows seamless data access to more than 800,000 end users.

But interoperability also increases the potential for damage that can be done by malicious software. To address the issue, what was originally known as the Navy Computer Incident Response Team (NAVCIRT) was increased from a staff of just five in 1995 to 250 in 2003. Three years later, NAVCIRT was established as a command within the Naval Network Warfare Command and became the Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command, or NCDOC. The NCDOC is the Navy’s CND Service Provider, and the protocols it has established—and which IT Security Technicians implement—include analysis of vulnerabilities, early detections of possible threats, preventative countermeasures and mitigation efforts, and prompt restoration of any compromised network services.

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