Your computer IS a weapon system

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jordon Cochran
  • 341st Communications Squadron commander
Computers have come a long way from their roots when large rooms were filled with vacuum tubes to today when almost every senior leader has a sleek Blackberry device leashed to their hip. Computers are a force multiplier in today's military and are critical to achieve combat successes in the Global War on Terror. Thus, computers and our computer networks are a weapon system. This concept is not new and can be traced back to Congressional testimony made by Lt. Gen. William J. Donahue, Director of Communications and Information, Headquarters, USAF, in 2000: "We were treating networks like the weapons systems they had become." This approach was essential as other nations, hacking groups, and organized crime syndicates were already fighting in the cyberspace domain by constantly trying to penetrate DoD networks through the Internet. The new Air Force Cyber Command is the latest organizational response to counter this threat. It is important for every Airman to treat their computer as a weapon system because of its ability to process vital information. 

The first is to be vigilant to computer threats and scams. The most common threat and scam is called "phishing." Phishing involves directing you to an official-looking Web site in order to try to steal passwords, personal information, bank account information or introduce virus attacks. This deceptive "trick" is usually employed through the use of an official looking e-mail that uses links to direct you to an outside Web site. The simplest way to defeat phishing is to be skeptical of suspicious e-mails and to avoid clicking on any links within e-mails unless you are sure of the authenticity of the sender and subject. 

The second thing you can do is to keep your computer protected from viruses. Viruses can attack your computer weapon system via malicious Internet Web sites, e-mail or any sort of electronic media that is inserted into the computer such as CD-ROMs, Jumpdrives, etc. To protect against viruses you should scan all incoming media with an up-to-date virus scanner. Although all computers on the Malmstrom network have virus scanner software already installed, you should make sure your home computer has the software, as well. If you do not have a virus scanner for your home computer, you can download Symantec Endpoint Protection, from a computer on a .mil network, at, burn it to a CD and then install it at home. This offer is limited to DoD employees only. Another option is to download a free software scanner such as AVG Free or Avast for your home computer. 

The third and final way you can treat your computer as a weapon system is to hone your computer skills and stay abreast of technology changes. You can increase your productivity by mastering office software such as the MS Office suite. You can do this by taking online training, taking a class at a community college, or making friends with a local "guru" and garnering knowledge from them. An additional way you can stay smart on technology is by reading periodicals such as PC Magazine or MaximumPC. 

By being vigilant to phishing attempts, protecting against computer viruses, and staying smart on technology, we ensure our computers are available as a warfighting weapon system. Our computers can be a very powerful weapon, so hone those computer skills and keep our networks safe.