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A closer look at the Vt. National Guard Cyber Response team

Published: Nov. 12, 2020 at 8:05 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Not long after the University of Vermont Health Network was hacked, a lesser-known team within the Vermont National Guard, the Cyber Response Team, was deployed to aid in the recovery.

“We train, this is what we train for," Vt. National Guard Col. Christopher Evans said.

He says when the call came about the UVM Health Network hack, they were ready and willing to step in.

“They’re excited by this mission, they work so hard and they train very hard to provide this support," Evans said.

Health Network President and CEO Dr. John Brumsted says he’s proud of the two teams and their response to the emergency.

“I am incredibly thankful to the Governor and the Guard for supporting us during this challenging time. We are making steady gains each day, and I am very proud of our teams for their response to this emergency," Brumsted said in a statement Tuesday.

The Cyber Response team is split between two units. The Vermont Defense Cyber Operations team is focused on defensive operations like security, hardening and preventing attacks before they happen. The second team is the Critical Infrastructure team. Their focus is defending critical infrastructure like health care systems, power companies or state agencies. All are highly trained both in military and in the IT business.

“To go in and assist them wherever we can and do whatever we can do,” Evans said.

Evans couldn’t discuss specifics, but he could say the focus so far has been on assisting UVM’s IT department with hardening and rebuilding systems. He says the team is 20 years old but has grown in the last five years.

With the growing threat of cyberattacks, Evans says he is glad to see the team responding so well to a nonsimulated experience.

“It’s a big mission for them. The morale is very high and they are very excited to go out and help the citizens of Vermont," said Evans.

The team typically competes in nationwide cyber exercises once or twice a year, but they say hands-on experience like this is crucial.

“Every year we participate in one or two cyber exercises, national cyber exercises. We’ve really worked and trained for this type of response to really assist our mission partners," said Evans.

He says they don’t get used a lot, but when they do, they are excited to help serve the community with their highly technical skill set.

There is still no timeline on when the Health Network will be fully operational.

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