The Montana National Guard confirmed last week that its team responded to an April cyberattack against the Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman.

The Montana National Guard said its Defensive Cyber Operations Element (DCOE) responded after it received a request for assistance from the Montana Department of Emergency Services. Seven members of DCOE were deployed to assist MSU’s Incident Command with helping to identify and mitigate additional vulnerabilities.

After discovering that the attack also impacted MSU’s Great Falls campus, two DCOE members were relocated from Bozeman to Great Falls to provide onsite assistance.

While the DCOE team is typically tasked with defending against local attacks on Department of Defense networks, the governor can also call upon the 10-person team to assist with defensive cyber operations during an incident that affects the state, when civilian assets are unavailable or exhausted.

“The Montana National Guard stands ready and prepared to assist the citizens of Montana with the initial response when cyber incidents affect infrastructure,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Carroll Benjamin, a senior information protection specialist with the Montana National Guard.

Benjamin said in a press release that the team was able to isolate the threat to prevent further spread of the attack to other systems and identify the source of the attack, which will help to reduce future vulnerability.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Lt. Col. Antonio Lecce, G-6 Mission Command supervisor. “Although the DCOE can help following an attack, we would rather do a cyber resilience review before an attack occurs to deter any cyber incidents. It can be a real eye opener for organizations to realize the scope of vulnerabilities that can be exploited if good cyber security practices are not implemented.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs