688th IOW's Guardian Challenge Team announced

Capt. Austin Murphy, 23rd Information Operations Squadron, Art Pemberton, 92nd Information Operations Squadron and Master Sgt. James Boyd, 90th IOS examine the competition network set-up for the 688th Information Operations Wing Guardian Challenge competition.(US Air Force photo)

Capt. Austin Murphy, 23rd Information Operations Squadron, Art Pemberton, 92nd Information Operations Squadron and Master Sgt. James Boyd, 90th IOS examine the competition network set-up for the 688th Information Operations Wing Guardian Challenge competition.(US Air Force photo)

Maj. Janis Mack and Lt. Col. Ken Roller, 90th Information Operations
Squadron, get a tutorial on the Guardian Challenge network from the creators, Jim Collins and Master Sgt. James Boyd (not pictured).

Maj. Janis Mack and Lt. Col. Ken Roller, 90th Information Operations Squadron, get a tutorial on the Guardian Challenge network from the creators, Jim Collins and Master Sgt. James Boyd (not pictured). (US Air Force photo)

Col. Bob Skinner, 688th Information Operations Wing commander, welcomes competitors to the 688th IOW's first Guardian Challenge competition. (US Air Force photo)

Col. Bob Skinner, 688th Information Operations Wing commander, welcomes competitors to the 688th IOW's first Guardian Challenge competition. (US Air Force photo)

Dallas Davies, 346th Test Squadron works on a Guardian Challenge scenario, while the commander, Lt. Col. Fred Baier, watches. (US Air Force photo)

Dallas Davies, 346th Test Squadron works on a Guardian Challenge scenario, while the commander, Lt. Col. Fred Baier, watches. (US Air Force photo)

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The 688th Information Operations Wing is proud to announce the winners of its first Guardian Challenge competition.

Representing the 688th IOW in the assessments category are 2nd Lt. Mark Griffin, Art Pemberton, and Tom Flores, 92nd Information Operations Squadron. From the 346th Test Squadron, winners of the test and evaluation category are 1st Lt. Robert Larkin, Dallas Davies and Eric Saenz. The training category winners from the 39th IOS are 2nd Lt. William Ellis, Tech. Sgt. Josiah Kimble and Barry Richmann. Finally, the 90th IOS takes the weaponeering category with Senior Airman Matthew Killion, Kenny Fitch and Seth Gibson.

"We are finally getting a chance to flex our abilities to the rest of the 24th AF," said Airman Killion. "We have some talented people in our organization, and it is a great chance to compete and show off our abilities."

The capture-the-flag-style competition took place April 22 at Lackland AFB. For one of the challenges, the teams were asked to download and examine a file. This file contained "ping" data, which appeared to be the normal traffic that flows between networked computers. These messages usually document the conversation between two computers to ensure they are connected and can talk to one another. However, this particular file contained a hidden message, which simulated an adversary trying to exfiltrate data. This challenge simulated a real-world method where an attacker might send out stolen data hidden within what looks like normal network communication.

When the teams examined the ping file, they found portions of an executable program that when combined and run, revealed a hidden message.

"Finding these hidden messages and who is trying to steal the data is similar to a task that some of the 688th IOW team members perform on a daily basis, as part of a computer security assessment," said Master Sgt. James Boyd, 90th IOS acting superintendent. "This competition sharpened their skills to hunt for the enemy on our networks."

Guardian Challenge is Air Force Space Command's competition to identify the best space operations, space launch, space acquisitions, combat communications and cyber forces teams. The team will travel to Peterson AFB to attend the score posting events and ceremony May 20 and 21.

"I'm proud of our team's efforts in the very first GC cyber events. All of them are truly amazing and are making history," said Col. Robert Skinner, 688th IOW commander. "They will definitely hold their own against the star competitors in the 67th Network Warfare Wing."