Colorado National Guard Practicing ‘Muscle Memory’ Cybersecurity

The Colorado National Guard is ramping up its cybersecurity awareness, starting with a cultural change to normalize cyber practices and the introduction of a cyber mascot, CIO Col. Isaac Martinez shared at a March 31 Cybersmart webinar.

Martinez echoed what many other cybersecurity officials have emphasized in the past: that changing the culture of an organization is imperative to introducing cyber best practices. The Colorado National Guard, however, wants cybersecurity to become a second nature.

“When we focus more on what is the culture we’re trying to do and trying to normalize cyber into our daily lives, and you introduce it that way, I think it starts to get some muscle memory and that’s what we were looking for,” Martinez said.

As a part of the shift, the Colorado National Guard even implemented a cyber mascot. Martinez explained that mascots were a large part of his childhood. The effectiveness Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog, for example, stuck with the CIO and the Guard decided to implement its own.

“We really pushed it within the Colorado National Guard of this new culture of what cybersecurity is all about, even getting to the point that we created our own cybersecurity mascot,” he said. “Our cybersecurity mascot [has] its own internal themes and message.”

The mascot pushes out pro-cybersecurity messaging to Guard employees each day. After a while, Martinez said, network users started to understand and repeat the same messages that the mascot was communicating. Now, employees have a better understanding of what is allowed on the network, what questions to ask, and where to find cybersecurity resources.

The Colorado National Guard OCIO is also trying to bolster relationships with other members of local government to build trust and send the cybersecurity message. Martinez explained that the Guard is working with counties, the Office of Information Technology, and Colorado Homeland Security to do workshops each year focused on critical infrastructure.

As it gets closer to the general elections in November 2020, the Guard is also getting more involved in election protection and security, Martinez said.

Katie Malone
About Katie Malone
Katie Malone is MeriTalk SLG's Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.