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Cyber stars: JAF, US partnership foils attacks during EL19

U.S. Central Command

By Sgt. 1st Class Margaret Taylor 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

AMMAN, Jordan, Sept. 5, 2019 -- It wasn't part of the plan, but the team faced down the bad guys when they came knocking. Twice. And twice they foiled them, protecting the participants of Exercise Eager Lion 19 from real-world threats.

The bad guys were no match for the Jordanian Cyber Incident Response Team or their American counterparts.

"This demonstrated the high caliber of the U.S. training and the high level that the Jordanian team is currently at," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Kenrick Kokaram, the communications lead planner for Eager Lion 19.

The attacks on the network came amidst a U.S.-Jordan cyber training program that is at its most robust in this year's exercise. Cyber is a key component of Eager Lion, which is U.S. Central Command's premiere exercise in the Levant region and is a major training event that provides U.S. forces, Jordan Armed Forces and 28 other participating nations the opportunity to improve their collective ability to plan and operate in a coalition-type environment.

The cyber training had several objectives, including cybersecurity monitoring, malicious content detection and incident response procedures, Kokaram said. So far, the Jordanian participants have completed every objective, including handling the two real-world attacks.

Throughout the training scenarios, the participants worked on one of two teams: one monitored the exercise network; the other trained to be able to recognize indicators of attacks. After a time, each group swapped places.

"From the very first day, I've talked to my team to take it serious," said Jordan Armed Forces Maj. Esaid Feras, the cyber security officer for Eager Lion 19 and an advisor to the JAF cyber team.

Because the team did take it seriously, they were able to not only successfully complete each fictitious scenario, but also detect, report and stop real enemy attacks.

"My team did an outstanding responses [sic] during this exercise," Feras said. "The collaboration between our troops – I really like that."

As it fits into the larger picture, cyber security is a crucial component in the ever-evolving battlespace, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jeth B. Rey, USCENTCOM's command, control, communications and computers/cyber and chief information officer. Network attacks can come from anywhere – whether from within the ranks or outside them – so building and maintaining relationships with partner nations is a necessary and critical task.

"I would expect that everyone would stay persistent on defending the networks because our adversaries are persistent in trying to gain access," Rey said.

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