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Cyber Security Red Tails: Encrypted Ops

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jim Bentley
  • 332d Expeditionary Communications Squadron

Airmen, hundreds or even thousands of miles apart, coordinate to make Agile Combat Employment a reality. Secure communication technology is what makes this possible. Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hart, 332d Expeditionary Communications Squadron Cyber Security, explains some of the ways his squadron ensures Airmen can speak to one another without information falling into the wrong hands.


“We’re the Communications Security managers for this entire Area of Responsibility, or at least the country, so we issue out keys to customers on other bases,” says Hart. “They need encrypted transmissions for their [Secure Internet Protocol Router Network] stuff, so they can have SIPRNet downrange. So, the jets, the planes, the helicopters, all have to have our keys.”


SIPRNet is a network for securely transmitting secret messages. This is compared to the Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network, or NIPRNet, which is for general internet usage including civilian websites.


Encryption allows information to be sent in an unreadable coded form, so it can’t be read if intercepted by enemy forces. Issuing encryption keys to intended recipients lets them decode the messages. To that only the right people can see the information, SIPRNet is only accessed in secure environments, by authorized personnel only.


One factor that makes these areas secure is a Tempest Diagram. Cyber Security Airmen measure the available space and lay out precisely where all equipment needs to go. This prevents the wrong cables from being connected, which could cause a leak of secret information.


Sometimes, the mission takes Airmen to an extreme environment, where internet connectivity is unreliable or nonexistent. That is where the Communications Fly Away Kit comes in.


Hart says the CFK provides communication services, such as cellular, email, or encrypted data transfer, in a package small enough to bring on expeditionary missions. Since it works via satellite, it is capable of providing these communications services anywhere in the world.