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Air Force ensures integrity of cyber security training certification after process breach

  • Published
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

After a comprehensive investigation, 74 personnel will be required to retake the Security+ cyber security certification test after notification regarding a process breach and infringement of intellectual property, Second Air Force officials announced here Nov. 21, 2023. 

The retest became necessary to ensure the integrity of the certification process after Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), an independent information technology company, brought forward evidence of testing concerns at Keesler in late 2022 that indicated individuals had access to unauthorized test preparation materials.  

The investigation began in May 2022 after CompTIA received an anonymous tip via its hotline with information that identified certain CompTIA intellectual property not authorized for test preparation was accessible to students in the Security+ training program at Keesler AFB. The unapproved materials included sample exam questions and answers, as well as discussions of past test questions and examples. Additionally, some students presented testing concerns related to higher-than-average accuracy and question response times.

Upon notification of the allegations by CompTIA, the 81st Training Wing initiated a commander-directed investigation. The findings determined an instructor established a repository housing the unauthorized information on the social collaboration application, Discord. Several members of the training staff contributed study materials to the social application. The review found no evidence the training staff sharing the information or the students accessing the information had knowledge the material was not authorized. The unauthorized content was intermixed with several legitimate study guides and references on the same server.

“We are committed to upholding the integrity of our processes and testing,” said Col. Billy Pope, Jr., 81st Training Wing commander. “As an Air Force core value, integrity first is a responsibility we hold upon ourselves, our Airmen and Guardians, and our students. From the first notification, the 81st TRW has been actively engaged with CompTIA to identify the best path forward to safeguard the integrity of the Security+ program and ensure those who protect and operate our network are certified and qualified to the standards the Air Force expects.”

Security+ is a required certification within the Department of Defense’s Information Assurance Workforce Improvement Program. Several Department of the Air Force cyber work rules require this certification under this guidance. In collaboration with CompTIA, the Air Force has notified the affected individuals through their chains of command that they must retest and recertify within a one-year time period.

The individuals impacted include active-duty Air Force, Guard and Reserve service members, along with Space Force Guardians. To help limit mission impact, while pursuing recertification, these individuals will remain certified to accomplish their respective missions during the one-year retesting period.

Additionally, the 81st TRW worked with CompTIA to identify the unauthorized materials and remove them from all internal training locations.