Estonia to host the world’s largest cyber exercise

The Estonian capital, Tallinn, is to host the annual NATO Locked Shields cyber exercise from 8-12 April – the world’s largest of its kind.

The exercise is organised by the Tallinn-based NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. The annual exercise is a unique opportunity for national cyber experts to practise protection of national IT systems and critical infrastructure under the intense pressure of a severe cyberattack.

The exercise will highlight the increased need for a better functional understanding between various experts and decision-making levels. The organisers integrate the technical and strategic game, enabling participating nations to practice the entire chain of command in the event of a severe cyber incident, from strategic to operational level and involving both civilian and military capabilities. “Considering the current cyber threats that are concerning nations the most, the exercise will address the protection of vital services and critical infrastructure,” the organisers said in a statement.

Cyberattacks against “Berylia”

According to the exercise scenario, a fictional island country, Berylia, is experiencing a deteriorating security situation. This falls at a critical time for Berylia as the country is conducting national elections.

“A number of hostile events coincide with coordinated cyberattacks against major civilian ITC systems,” the organisers described. “The attacks cause severe disruptions in the operation of water purification systems, the electric power grid, 4G public safety networks, maritime awareness capability and other critical infrastructure components. The cyber-attacks also effect national perception of election results, leading to public unrest.”

The participants of the exercise are to train as national cyber rapid reaction teams that are deployed to assist Berylia in handling a large-scale cyber incident. “While the aim of the tech game is to maintain the operation of various systems under intense pressure, the strategic part addresses the capability to understand national coordination mechanisms, law enforcement options and strategic communication.”

Participants are all over the world

The organisers of the exercise gather in Tallinn, Estonia, but the participating Blue Teams set up secure online access from their home base.

Locked Shields 2019 is organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in cooperation with the Estonian Defence Forces, the Finnish Defence Forces, the United States European Command, National Security Research Institute of the Republic of Korea and TalTech.

Industry partners in the exercise include Siemens, Elisa, Cybernetica, Cisco, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Arctic Security, Clarified Security, Iptron, Bytelife, BHC Laboratory, Bolt and many others.

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Cover: Locked Shields operation room in 2018.