Since September 2012, more than 25 enlisted Sailors from the Information System Technician (IT) and Cryptologic Technician-Networks (CTN) ratings have earned Master of Science in Applied Cyber Operations (MACO) degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California.
According to NPS, the Applied Cyber Operations curriculum addresses a range of operational and technical topics in defensive and offensive cyberspace operations. This includes computer network attack, active and passive defense, exploitation, cyber analysis via automated and manual toolsets, operations, policy, and engineering.
"The MACO course focuses a lot on the way computer systems operate and communicate," said Chief Cryptologic Technician (Network) Kurt Myers, a MACO student at NPS. "And what we are learning is the strengths and weaknesses with those systems so we can be better at defending and attacking other computer systems"
The field is growing in importance due to increasing reliance on computer systems, the Internet, and wireless networks such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and due to the growth of "smart" devices, including smartphones, televisions, and the various tiny devices that constitute the Internet of Things, or the network of physical devices.
"Cyber security affects everyone," said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Fidel Christopher, a MACO student at NPS. "Cyber security doesn't involve just businesses and the government. Your computer and cellphone contain information that hackers and other criminals would love to have. So here we are learning how to protect not only the general population from attack but also big Navy."
The course consists of four quarters which combine coursework in the study of cyber operations, defending U.S. systems, and exploiting vulnerabilities in adversaries, and culminates with a comprehensive capstone project.
"Students build prototypes of advanced cyber defenses and test them in an emulated global enterprise IT environment," said John Fulp, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at NPS. "Some students also try to create new technology that can be used in the fleet as well. It's all about challenging the students to show off what they learned while in the program."
In May of 2015, Vice Adm. Jan E. Tighe, commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and U.S. 10th Fleet, returned to NPS for an in-depth review the program.
"The cyber threat is constantly evolving, and so must our defense," said Tighe. "The true value of this program is the opportunity to provide operationally-relevant education to these Sailors, who return right back to the Fleet, where they can apply what they've learned, and lead other Sailors in the fight."
For more information about the MACO program, review NAVADMIN 013/16, available here.