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Closing enemy windows of opportunity

  • Published
  • By 346th Test Squadron
  • 346th Test Squadron
The team is huddled around a laptop outside of an enemy compound. One of the team members adjusts the image on the laptop and the picture becomes clear. Now the team can see the display of the enemy's computer - on a secure network - on the fifth floor of the building.

After a decade of Information Warfare and the Air Force's recognition of Cyberspace as a war fighting domain, this kind of 'hack' may not seem revolutionary.

However, this network intrusion occurred because the team was able to detect emissions from a computer monitor inside the building. They were then able to turn radiated energy into a live feed on their laptop, just as if they had plugged a second monitor into the computer inside.

The bad news: this can happen to your computer, telephone, radio or data link. It can happen on the ground or in the air. It can even happen if you are transmitting secure.

The good news: this team is apart of the Air Force--the Emissions Security flight at the 346th Test Squadron, a subordinate unit to the Air Force Information Operations Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The EMSEC team tests Air Force aircraft, facilities, and systems to ensure compromising emissions don't provide an adversary with windows into our protected networks.

They are the only team in the Air Force to perform this type of confidentiality in communications testing. Because of their work, the warfighter has the confidence to use secure communication systems and know that they aren't emitting any unintended radio waves that the enemy will be able to access and exploit even if the mission calls for simultaneous operation of secure and unsecure systems installed in very close proximity.

They combine an understanding of electronics, radio signal propagation, and electromagnetic coupling with digital signaling protocols, spread-spectrum techniques, and other advanced subjects. They apply this knowledge to provide the warfighter with operational confidence in secure systems.

Windows of vulnerability occur when the cyberspace domain is established carelessly. Doing it right the first time gives the Air Force an advantage against adversary hackers.

Through testing, the EMSEC team ensures vulnerabilities are eliminated before establishing a domain and conducting operations.

From Air Force One to laptop computers, the team provides one layer of information assurance for every aspect of the Air Force's air, space, and cyberspace operations.

They have tested a myriad of aircraft communication systems to ensure their emissions aren't making them vulnerable to an enemy attack.

However, the EMSEC team remains particularly proud of their work for the President.

During their most recent test of Air Force One, they tested improved secure networking, teleconferencing, commercial satellite communication, and data and voice capability over satellite and terrestrial links.

"We keep the lines of communication safe and confidential," said Tech. Sgt. Chris Onfore, EMSEC test technician. "We are the only team in the Air Force that can say they provide that type of support to the President. It really is a great honor and an important responsibility."