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Facilities cybersecurity protects against threats you may not think about

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- Experts say the range of cyber threats is growing and federal facilities aren't immune.

In Huntsville, the US Army Corps of Engineers center in Huntsville is working to protect against those threats in ways you may not realize are key parts of national security. They're taking a look at facility cybersecurity, dealing with threats in infrastructure like heating and cooling systems and utilities. One of those experts, branch chief Daniel Shepard, tells us those things rely on networks, and networks can be hacked.

An Information Assurance and Information Technology Branch has been established in the Huntsville Center Engineering Directorate, and this year USACE designated Huntsville Center as the Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Technical Center of Expertise.

That's a mouthful.

But basically, it means they do a good job protecting and advising customers how to protect against facility cybersecurity threats, and understand cybersecurity requirements.

"This is a new facet and a new capability the Corps of Engineers is sponsoring by making this a center of expertise," said Shepard.

Facility cybersecurity is important, he said, because "it can create mission downtime, and create irreplaceable damage" if someone were to be able to hack into a piece of equipment on a network and start to control it.

"While there's a ton of expertise in cybersecurity for traditional IT platforms across the Army, there is not yet a lot of expertise in our niche area of cybersecurity for facilities," Shepard said. "We are trying to be that voice with a facility engineering focus for the Army. The Corps of Engineers brings that to the Army; no one else in the Army does that."