Washington National Guard focuses on cyber-attacks

High-tech citizen soldiers will battle possible hackers

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TACOMA — The Washington National Guard is focusing its attention on a project that can help protect state and local governments, as well as utilities and private industry from cyber-attacks.

The Guard is leveraging a decade of investment in cyber-security at Camp Murray in Lakewood for its new assignment. It wants to bring to the digital world the kind of disaster response it uses to help fight wildfires and floods, said Lt. Gent Welsh of the Air National Guard.

"Just as 'Business X' needs the National Guard to come in and fill sand bags, 'Business X' might need to call the National Guard if it's overwhelmed on the cyber-side," Welsh said.

The Washington Guard has a natural advantage by enlisting employees from companies including Microsoft and Amazon.

These high-tech citizen soldiers serve in units such as the 262nd Network Warfare Squadron, which carries out worldwide cyber-security missions from a nondescript brick building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. They're tasked with protecting Pentagon networks from hackers who steal information or otherwise manipulate Defense Department data.

In July, the Washington National Guard approved a plan outlining how it can assist utilities and local governments in cyber-attacks. It identified units that can help local governments take preventive measures to protect themselves, as well as soldiers who could do forensic work to identify attackers or deploy in the middle of an assault.