What Do Cyber Protection Teams Do?

Feb 3, 2022 | Content, News

Infosec is a booming field full of opportunity. Titles like “threat hunter” and “cyber operator” sound very exciting. But what do these jobs really entail?

Mark Pomerleau at C4ISRNET wrote an excellent article giving a high-level view of how cyber protection teams at the Pentagon operate. We will use that as a model to talk about the process of threat detection and mitigation, and what professional cyber defenders do.

How do experts spot a malicious hacker?

For many teams, the first line of defense is network monitoring. This is often assisted by software, which can analyze traffic and alert operators to unusual patterns of activity. Is a user attempting to access data or resources outside of their job scope? Have new and unusual programs appeared on the network? Is a morning person suddenly accessing their work account at 4:00 am? Spotting activity that “just doesn’t fit” is critical to identifying a breached network.

At the DoD, cyber protection teams primarily operate as a response force. They do not become involved until a breach is confirmed. Once that confirmation occurs, the next step is rapid response.

When a breach is confirmed, a cyber protection team is dispatched to the problem site, equipped with specialized software and hardware tools to combat bad actors and seal the breach. When they arrive, the team works with local IT staff to identify the problem, mitigate any continuing threats, and provide insight into how to strengthen network defense going forward.

Cyber protection teams are often trained in both offense and defense. In addition to providing flexibility, this type of training directly benefits the overall ability of the team. By learning to think like an attacker, they can defend more effectively by thoroughly understanding attackers’ tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Cyber protection team in action
Laptop keyboard with lock and chain.

If the cyber protection team determines that malicious hackers are still actively accessing the network, the hunt is on. The team will use any means necessary to deny them access, including changing credentials on the fly, blocking software backdoors, and forcing the attacker into areas of the network where they can no longer access critical information. Protecting the most sensitive areas of the network is a top priority.

Once the attackers have been thoroughly removed from the system, the final step is making sure that the door is closed behind them. Depending on the attack techniques in use, this might involve patching insecure systems, implementing new data access protocols, or limiting the ability of software to access various parts of the network.

Network breaches often result in fallout that can last for years after the initial attack. Loss of reputation, loss of public trust, and loss of intellectual property are only a few of the potential risks. And while having a team of elite experts on call to remedy a breach can prevent a great deal of damage, the best offense is ultimately a good defense.

When organizations actively invest in continual cybersecurity training, their own internal teams will be able to spot suspicious activity and halt malicious hackers in their tracks before the damage is done. There is no amount of post-breach mitigation that can fully compensate for the harm caused by being hacked.

To learn more about how to build a team to keep your organization safe, reach out and contact us. We’re here to help.

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