What’s trending about Peterson? Searches and security both play a role

Boundary protection operators from the 561st Network Operations Squadron train on setting up firewalls used to provide security for networked computers on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)

Boundary protection operators from the 561st Network Operations Squadron train on setting up firewalls used to provide security for networked computers on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- What do people around the world search the web for in relation to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado? According to Google, what most of them want is related to personal use and comes from people in the area surrounding the base.

People who are performing searches related to the base seek useful information to help them access Peterson AFB, according to Google. But in the case of other, nefarious searchers the 561st Network Operations Squadron is keeping an eye on the virtual landscape.

Over the course of the last five years, the busiest months are early in the year during February. The busiest weeks in that time period were Feb. 17-23, 2013, Feb. 22-28, 2015, and Jan. 31- Feb. 6, 2016. The 2015 time period included 100 searches originating in Guam, a U.S. territory in the western Pacific Ocean, home of Anderson AFB.

Over the course of that five-year time frame there were five topics, all related to personal concerns, showing significant rises in popularity. The most prevalent search term related to Peterson AFB was for Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System information. Searches for the topic shot up 160 percent compared to previous years.


Also during that time, searches for gate hours on Peterson AFB were the next most popular, jumping 100 percent, base housing searches were next at a 70 percent increase over previous years and queries for commissary hours went up by 60 percent.

Considering the last five years overall, there were a handful of searches that went up more than 100 percent, showing increased search popularity. People looking for information about the Peterson AFB gym were up nearly 200 percent, for example. People searching for the base’s Facebook page shot up 170 percent, likely due to the page’s inception in 2012.

Hunts related to the base pharmacy, 130 percent, commissary hours, 120 percent, and the Air & Space Museum, 110 percent, all showed notable rises in Google search popularity.

There are some searches made from outside of the Pikes Peak Region, such as the 2015 queries from Guam, but according to Google trends most of the PAFB searches originated from within a roughly 12-mile radius from the base. The most interested searchers come from all points of the local compass with Cimarron Hills, where Peterson is located taking the top slot. Black Forest, to the north, is next, followed by Colorado Springs, Fort Carson and Security/Widefield.

While computer users carry out these innocent searches, there are those who are searching for ways to steal their information. Airman 1st Class Naoshi Pfeffer, 561st Network Operations Squadron Cyber Operations Monitoring monitoring management technician, said there are a few things that can be done to increase safety while spending time on the Internet.

• Secure Passwords
“As per Air Force standards, a good password is at least nine characters in length possessing at least two uppercase characters, two lowercase characters, two numbers, and two unique characters, such as !, @, #, $,” Pfeffer said. “Never save passwords on your device, look into a secure password manager.”

• Be conscious of all privacy settings.
He said to always choose the least amount of data sharing, something the Air Force calls ‘principle of least privilege.’
“Turn off location services and deny access to your camera,” said Pfeffer. “For social media, review your privacy settings.”

• Be aware of your digital footprint.
Whatever you post online is there forever, even if you delete the original post.
“There are sites which archive all data that was ever posted, like Wayback Machine (https://achive.org/web/),” he said.

• Back up your data.
Users can fall prey to ransomware attacks. Backups allow for data recovery should one of these attacks happen.
“A ransomware attack is when an attacker gains access to the (user's) data,” Pfeffer explained. “He will encrypt all the data on the local machine so that the agent cannot access it. A ransom demand will be made known to the agent for the exchange of the encryption key to possibly decrypt the data taken by the attacker.”
An encryption key is like a password that will make the data readable again. Paying the ransom does not guarantee receipt of the key.

• Familiarize yourself with phishing.
Phishing is a way attackers attempt to gain access to data by impersonation, said Pfeffer.
“Phishing is the act of gaining user credentials either through employing malware to the user's local machine, or by soliciting applicable information to bypass security mechanisms,” he said.

There are other steps Pfeffer shared for protecting computer privacy. Using security software on all devices, including phones, disabling Bluetooth when not in use, and deleting data that is no longer used are just a few of them.

To help combat risks, the Air Force has a program installed in all official email applications to help automate the recognition of sensitive material, as well as automatic updates and anti-virus software that help automate defensive measures. Computer-based testing is used to certify a standard level of knowledge for cyber situational awareness among base personnel.

Whether surfing the web looking for information about Peterson AFB or using other types of online services, being aware of potential risks and taking measures to avoid them is the best way to get the most from the Internet and not give away personal information.