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A master of integration

Guardsman developing new cyber defense team

An avid outdoorsperson, 1Lt Brett Cox heads up the Mission Defense Team at the Western Air Defense Sector. Photo credit: Courtesy photo

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1Lt. Brett Cox is a master of integration; he is a generalist as opposed to a specialist; he knows a great deal about a great many disciplines and applies that knowledge is a practical way.

"My spectrum of passions ranges from water sports, outdoor hobbies, cars and all things aviation to computers, servers, firewall, and other complex equipment," he began.

Growing up in Blackfoot, Idaho, Cox spend most of his time outdoors, riding BMX bikes, building tracks in the fields with neighborhood kids, working on cars and dabbling in computer programming.

He served eight years in the Air Force on active duty in aircraft maintenance. Ready for a transition, he learned about the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) and its mission. Soon after in the Spring 2016, Cox joined the Washington Air National Guard (WANG) and was assigned to WADS.

"I learned a bit about the WADS mission and knew it would be my long-term home," explained Cox. Not long after joining, he earned his commission as a cyber operations officer.

"I've done many jobs in the military before ultimately landing in a career as a Cyber Operations Officer."

But his talent for integrating knowledge and applying it in a practical manner was soon apparent.

As a traditional Guardsman, Cox was assigned to the 252nd Cyber Operations Group, specifically the 262nd Cyber Operations Squadron.

"This allowed me to further develop my skills with the highly technical cyber security folks in the 262nd," he said.

His role as a cyber operations officer at the 262nd led to him being qualified to fill a new position at the WADS as a temporary but full-time Active Duty for Operational Support (ADOS) officer with the WADS' 225th Support Squadron.

"This brand new position was to stand up the Mission Defense Team, a local network defender element charged with defending our critical Battle Control Center cyber terrain," Cox continued.

This team was created as part of an initiative to bolster cyber defenses across the Air Force and Air National Guard. Cox said that over the past year, members of the team have been challenged to do more outside of their envelope of knowledge than they have likely ever been asked to do in their careers.

"They've done everything from making cables, to building highly complex servers and due to the intricacies of WADS, a lot of their development has come with very little instruction or good documentation," explained Cox, and while they laid the groundwork to stand up the team, they've continued to train."

Proud of his team's work, Cox described in general terms how his team developed dashboards that can isolate on a specific radar site.  

"During events where there were aberrations in this traffic, we were able to successfully determine the failed elements of the network and provide the specifics on how we were affected," he explained.

"With this new capability, WADS will have a persistent team of cyber defenders prepared to identify and evaluate cyber threats directed at our networks."

It should come as no surprise that Cox, a master of knowledge integration, should offer a practical defense to ward off a cyber-attack.

"Maintain up-to-date software updates; make sure you have the proper antivirus; and most importantly, avoid clicking on any links or files in your emails that you do not trust."

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