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Fighting cyberattacks

Guardsman leads efforts

Maj. Sameer Puri, Washington Army National Guard’ team chief for Defensive Cyber Operations, worked with his Indian Army counterparts during Yudh Abhyass 2020. Photo Credit: U.S. Army

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In his line of service, Maj. Sameer Puri knows a lot about cybersecurity.

He is a Title 32 Active Guard and Reserve member of the Washington Army National Guard. In this role not only does Puri serve as the Director of Information, he is also the team chief for the Defensive Cyber Operations Team.

According to Cyber Observer, the damage related to cybercrime is projected to top $6 trillion dollars this year.

The Washington National Guard has been at the forefront of confronting the threat posed by cyber-attacks, and Puri and his team keep these attackers from shutting down utilities, crippling the transportations system, and damaging the state and nation's economic infrastructures.

"The most interesting aspect of my job is that it is continuously evolving, which brings new challenges, and my job is to provide solutions to those challenges," Puri wrote in an email.

A cyber-attack is an attempt by someone or some organization to gain unauthorized access to a computer, computing system or computer network with the intent to cause damage. Such an attack can disable, disrupt, destroy, control or steal from these systems.

"We provide Cyber Security Incident Response for our own Department of Defense network and also for our mission partners as needed and ordered by the Commander of Washington National Guard. Cyber security is very complex. It requires a lot of training and also the right talent management," he continued.

Born to a middle-class family in the state of Punjab in northern India, Puri worked to help with his family's finances while also graduating with a Bachelors of Commerce from Delhi University. He migrated to the United States in 1999 and in the same year enlisted in the Army and served as a combat engineer.

"Joining the Army opened this avenue for me, and I took full advantage of the education benefits," he explained.

Puri currently holds double Masters from the University of Washington - one in Cyber Security and Leadership; the other in Computer Science and Systems.

In 2003, Puri joined the Washington Army National Guard where he was offered the opportunity to work in the Information Technology field.

"This matched my interests and educational pursuits," he continued. 

During Cyber Shield 2020, Puri and nine teammates conducted a focused tactical cyber exercise with assistance from other branches of service and industry partners.

"It provided a collective training event for cyber forces to set the conditions for evaluation against Army/Joint standards, network defense, forensic analysis, reporting, mitigation and incident response," Puri added.

He also took part in Yudh Abhyas 2020, a joint military exercise between 1st Brigade, 2nd Stryker Brigade Team and elements of the Indian Army.

"The Exercise Control Group (ECG) wanted to include a defensive cyber element during the staff exercise," Puri related, "so I included that planning for the brigade."

When not defending against cyber-attacks, he enjoys spending time with his two sons, visiting national parks and historic sites, and building cyber security labs.

"Service in the Army National Guard has shaped my personality ... it provides meaning to my life ... and it is more than a job as it defines and pervades every aspect of my life."

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