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Air Combat Electronics Program Office, Defense Acquisition University Launch New Cyber Security Course

Roy Wilson, DAU professor of Acquisition Cybersecurity, right, and Vincent Lamolinara, DAU instructor, left, stand with the flight simulator hardware DAU is using to make the cybersecurity training range course available to the acquisition workforce.

Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, MD - February 13, 2020 - The Air Combat Electronics program office is partnering with Defense Acquisition University (DAU) to create a hands-on cybersecurity training range in its new course to be held on a monthly basis.

“This collaboration effort between the program office and DAU enables the deployment of software on an avionics single board computer that meets open architecture standards while supporting cybersecurity related activities,” said Dr. Hebin Luan, Air Combat Electronics program office Avionic Architecture Team Software Open Systems Technologies lead engineer.

The program office assisted DAU in creating a cybersecurity training range that provides hands on introductory level cyber hacking experiences against a “real world” target. Providing this type of hands on cybersecurity training is new at DAU, and in line with the U.S. Navy’s goal of transforming the way we do business.

“This is an in-class war gaming concept,” said Roy Wilson, DAU professor of acquisition cybersecurity with more than 30 years of system security engineering experience. “We teach the students how to think like a hacker, understanding cyber offense to enable better defensive outcomes”.

The three-day resident course is an immersive experience consisting of interactive group projects, the results of which the class can see play out in real time on large screens including an aircraft cockpit with instruments and flight path display. Students participate in instructor-led cyber-attacks on enterprise networks and aviation systems, using tactics such as phishing, privilege escalation, exfiltration, denial of service malware, exploiting system weaknesses, and pivoting from non-critical to critical subsystems.

Wilson teaches the course with Vincent Lamolinara, a DAU instructor with a unique background as a former naval aviator, U.S. Naval Test Pilot School graduate and in-depth experience in network and cyber warfare.

“Cyber is a fairly new warfare domain; we are really teaching a risk management framework for cybersecurity,” said Lamolinara.

The cybersecurity training range at DAU is an isolated, secure training environment for adversarial assessment techniques. The course covers basic hacking techniques that can be found on the open web, and simulates the ramifications of those attacks on networks and on an air vehicle and control system that are not cyber secure.

“The acquisition community is learning more about drafting cybersecurity requirements, cybersecurity design, and testing through hands-on laboratory experiences such as this,” Wilson said. The simulated network attacks, information theft and control takeover of air vehicles helps us develop better defensive designs for the future.

Held at the unclassified level, the course is open to civilians, military, and contractors. The intended audience is not limited to the cyber workforce, but rather is intended for anyone in the naval aviation acquisition field.  Students apply hacking techniques in a closed network infrastructure, but prior hacking experience is not a prerequisite.  The course was designed for the widest audience, because as Lamolinara stated, “we are in cyber warfare every day”.

The Air Combat Electronics program office (PMA-209) is Program Executive Office, Aviation Common Systems and Commercial Service’s executive agent for the development and management of cutting edge air combat electronics systems. Established in 1988, PMA-209 is responsible for providing critical capabilities to the warfighter in the form of common, fully developed, supportable, and reliable systems that align with the strategic and operational requirements of our platform PEO/PMA customers.  By delivering the highest quality products and services on time and within budget, PMA-209 has built a solid reputation for superior quality as well as sound business practices.

Implementing state-of-the-art technology solutions across the Naval Aviation Enterprise, PMA-209 meets the goal of supporting “Tomorrow’s Capabilities within Today’s Budget.”

For more information about PMA-209, visit the website: https://www.navair.navy.mil/index.php/organization/PMA-209

Those interested in attending the three-day course onsite at the DAU Mid-Atlantic campus in California, Maryland may sign up by contacting Wilson at roy.wilson@dau.edu.

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