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My Coast Guard
Commentary | April 15, 2021

Coast Guard Academy participates in NSA Cyber Exercise 2021

By David Santos, Coast Guard Academy Exernal Affairs

Cyberattacks are invisible hazards that are capable of inflicting real physical damage. These threats target the infrastructure, information systems, networks, and personal devices we rely on every day.

Cyberattacks exploit vulnerabilities in computer software and hardware that allow attackers to gain access to sensitive information or impact a victim's ability to access their own systems. These attacks often result in a loss of revenue, theft of intellectual property, and disclosure of personally identifiable information for millions of individuals.

A cyberattack against our nation’s critical infrastructure could disrupt operations, effect the economy, and even cause the loss of life. Cybersecurity is an ever-increasing crucial component of a strong national defense designed to help keep our nation safe and our economy strong.

The U.S. Coast Guard has a long-standing mission of protecting America’s maritime transportation system and critical infrastructure, as well as those who work on and live near the water. Cyberspace is an operational domain that integrates information and intelligence in support of Coast Guard operations.

The Coast Guard Academy recently instituted a Cyber Systems degree to meet the needs of the services cybersecurity strategy of defending cyber space, enabling operations, and protecting infrastructure. The major provides graduates with the computing skills and technical ability to meet the needs of the Coast Guard cyber mission.

The National Security Agency helps prepare future military leaders to protect our critical infrastructure by conducting the NSA Cyber Exercise (NCX), a three-day annual cyber competition that tests the offensive and defensive cybersecurity skills of participant teams from U.S. service academies and senior military colleges as well as civilian interns from NSA’s cyber-focused development programs.

“Participating in NCX contributes to our cadet's growth as the future cyber leaders of our service who will stand ready to stop malicious activity designed to disrupt, degrade, or destroy the nation’s critical maritime infrastructure,” said Lt. Ryan Quarry, Cyber Systems Instructor.

NSA’s National Cyber Exercise (NCX), is part of a year-round cyber education program that culminates with an unclassified exercise designed to reinforce the learning principles taught in the classroom. This year’s competition will feature scenarios that include challenges in forensics, cyber policy, cryptography, reverse engineering as well as the traditional cyber combat exercise.

The Coast Guard Academy cyber team uses the NCX competition to build upon skills taught in academic classes by completing challenges in technical topics such as cryptography, software reverse engineering, and digital forensics. 

NCX demands that cadets exercise their training to operate effectively in teams as well as communicate and make decisions while evaluating complex technical data points.

Since 2001, NSA has hosted the team-against-team competition that develops and tests teamwork, planning, communication and decision-making skills of the next generation of cyber talent.

Learn more about the NSA Cyber Exercise, here.