SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Thousands of cyberattacks have occurred within the past year, often targeting major cities and even small towns.
In Savannah on Wednesday, local agencies conducted a simulation to prepare for the unexpected. The simulation was made possible by the Army Cyber Institute at West Point.
Frank Katz, director of Georgia’s Southern University’s Cyber Education Center, was tasked with observing how agencies react to signs of an attack. He says a successful simulation starts with the what-ifs.
“What if the electrical grid coming into the ports was attacked or the natural gas lines were attacked by a cyber attack,” asked Katz, “how would county, city, state and the port as well as the military react?”
Katz is able to observe those reactions giving him the ability to identify shortfalls in an agency’s response plan.
The regionally focused exercise included commercial, critical infrastructure supporting military deployment and global logistics operations. It gives Savannah leaders and elected officials the opportunity to really put their current response plans to the test.
“There are a lot of people involved in protecting our critical infrastructure,” said Katz.
The point is to train agencies to work together. The hope is that they commit to concrete practical improvements that enhance their ability to bounce back from an attack.
Katz says a lack of preparation could be disastrous.
“If I am an attacker and I can bring down one public utility then perhaps that could trip down the whole system,” said Katz, “and bring down a whole region of the United States.”
Law enforcement and emergency management agencies took part in the simulation. Katz says his goal is to apply all his simulation observations in the classroom.
He says this prepares students for the real world by showing them what they are up against.
“The first line of defense is you and so that’s why we emphasize a lot of the time in our course work training is an important part and component of cybersecurity,” said Katz, “because we really have to train our employees to be aware of what could be a bad situation and how to react to it.”