JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
Cyber Airmen from the 477th Fighter Group participated in a Multi-Application Practical Learning Environment Range exercise for the first time on June 5, 2021, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
The purpose of the training is to learn how to better protect the network from threat actors and reduce its vulnerabilities. The training also helps prepare the cyber Airmen for the transition of their career field into 1D7X1. The cyber Airmen that participated were from three of the several different Air Force specialty codes merging; 3D0X1 cyber systems, 3D1X1 client systems, and 3D1X2 cyber transport.
“It adds to our abilities as cyber warriors, our toolkits as defenders, and our overall usefulness when standing up for this AFSC transition,” said Tech. Sgt. Malcom Eades, 477th Force Support Squadron client systems technician.
In 2015, the 688th Cyber Wing, San Antonio, Texas, asked the 229th Cyberspace Operations Squadron, South Burlington, Vermont, to develop range training capabilities which resulted in creation of the MAPLE.
According to the 229th COS, the MAPLE range is a realistic network training range comprised of virtual machines simulating a ‘friendly’ network enclave complete with a firewall, intrusion detection software, and typical network web and email traffic. Malicious and unauthorized traffic also transits the simulated network.
Utilizing the MAPLE range allows the cyber Airmen to practice identifying and defending a simulated network from attacks without affecting their actual network.
“The Air Force benefits because we can defend our network from threat actors attempting to enter our systems,” said Eades. “The members also benefit because they can learn to better defend their home network, the network at their civilian jobs, at hospitals and our mission partners.”
During the exercise, cyber Airmen were able to identify and stop five threat actors: a hydra attack, a Trojan virus attack, a Metasploit attempt, policy violations using rogue network devices, and a banner grabbing attempt.
Once the exercise terminated the team debriefed on the exercise, focusing on the traffic that went through the system and what they did to protect the network. This allows the team to recognize where they need to train and what they are doing well.
“Staying up-to-date with cyber defense systems is a continuous job and staying in practice is a priority to us as a cyber-unit, said Eades.”We will probably return to the MAPLE range semi-annually to ensure we are always ready to defend our network.”