JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md --
Airman 1st class Belinda Mykham remembers how worried she was when she received the ominous phone call. Then a high-schooler, she was lazily sitting on her black leather couch watching TV when the phone rang.
“Your computer has a threat,” a voice on the other end said.
“[The scam artists] scare you into thinking that they have discovered viruses on your laptop,” said the 744th Communications Squadron visual imagery intrusion detections systems maintenance technician. “I didn’t know anything about cyber scams back then.”
Mykham the caller then began to guide her to various links, promising to repair her allegedly infected computer for a small fee.
“I actually let them remote into my laptop, and that’s when I had put in my debit card number,” she said.
The task was almost complete before she realized she was becoming a victim of a cyberattack. Mykham said she immediately closed her laptop to shut it off and stop the intrusion. After shutting down, the adrenaline from the near catastrophe hit her hard.
“It was terrible,” Mykham said. “I felt like I could have lost everything.”
She said the experience demonstrated the importance of cybersecurity, the system of technologies and methods that protects our digital resources from attack.
“Technology is constantly growing and there are constant threats,” Mykham said. “We are identifying threats now, but there’s still going to be more behind the scenes. [Hackers] are going to find all the possible ways that they can to get your personal information.”
Social media interactions are among the most common tactics these days, she said especially beacuse each platform carries unique risks when used improperly. She said the two best ways to practice security are to adjust your privacy settings and be careful what you say about your work.
“Everyone wants to tell everyone what they are doing,” Mykham said. “You have to keep in mind that not everyone is out there to just look at [your post].”
Cybersecurity practices can be applied to emails, instant messaging platforms and mobile phone activity.
Airman 1st Class Scott Cook, 744th Communications Squadron mission defense operator, said it’s everyone’s responsibility to help protect a base’s cyber defenses.
“It’s like having a secondary job,” Cook said. “You need to make sure your antivirus is set up, and you’re constantly updating every day.”
There are several cyber awareness resources available to base personnel, including the “Comm 411” link on most base computer desktops. The link gives practical and effective tools for Airmen to recognize cyber threats and procedures to follow in common situations.
Another resource is computer-based training, like the Cyber Awareness Challenge, which teaches the importance of information assurance, relevant laws, policies and procedures, examples of external and internal threats, and prohibited or unauthorized activity on Department of Defense systems.
To help combat cyberattacks, remember to be VOCAL: Vigilant, Observant, Committed Airmen Leaders.
Any suspicious activity should be reported to security forces at 301-981-2001. For help with Comm 411 call 240-857-6755.