Estonia to host an international cyber defence exercise

From 18 to 21 April, the Tallinn-based NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence is hosting Locked Shields 2023, one of the world’s largest live-fire cyber defence exercises; over 3,000 participants from 38 nations are taking part.

The Locked Shields is a “red team vs blue team” training exercise, with “blue teams” composed of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence member nations and their partner nations; the “blue team” needs to defend the critical infrastructure from the cyber-attacks by the “red team”.

In addition to defending systems, teams must report incidents, execute strategic decisions, and solve forensic, legal and media challenges. The exercise plan was prepared by 400 organisers, creating more than 5,500 virtual systems for its purpose.

“No other cyber defence exercise can offer as specialised and detailed of an experience as Locked Shields can. Twenty-four ‘blue teams’ from around the world must keep critical infrastructure and IT systems up and running. Teams can demonstrate how well they can keep systems running under real-life situations and high pressure,” the director of the centre, Mart Noorma, said in a statement.

In addition to the technical aspects, strategy and cooperation play an equally important role in Locked Shields.

“Technical specialists cannot solve a cyber crisis alone. Usually, decision-makers and experts from different governmental bodies and walks of life are those who try to repel the attacks,” Noorma added.

Locked Shields exercise in 2018. NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.

A cyberattack can escalate into a security crisis

“This is why, in addition to cyber defence, we focus on strategy games, legal issues and crisis communication at Locked Shields. Cooperation must we swift, because a large cyberattack can quickly escalate into a large-scale security crisis, and these kinds of exercises allow us to be better prepared.”

The “blue teams” represent national cyber rapid reaction teams, deployed to assist a fictional country under large-scale cyberattacks. Their task is to protect the mock state’s information systems and critical infrastructure from thousands of attacks, make management decisions in a crisis and ensure that decisions are well considered.

In Locked Shields 2022, the Finnish “blue team” came out on top by demonstrating solid network and web defences, and they excelled in situation reporting.

Locked Shields has been organised in Tallinn by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence since 2010.

The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence is a NATO-accredited knowledge hub offering a unique interdisciplinary approach to the most relevant issues in cyber defence. The heart of the centre is a diverse group of international experts from the military, government, academia and industry, currently representing 39 sponsoring and contributing nations.

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