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April 17, 2019updated 18 Apr 2019 9:44am

France Wins NATO’s “Live Fire” Cybersecurity Exercise

Teams experienced more than 2,500 attacks

By CBR Staff Writer

A French team of security experts has emerged the winner of a NATO-backed “live-fire” cybersecurity exercise, Locked Shields, that involved nearly 1,200 cybersecurity experts competing in a red team-blue team engagement to defend a fictional country, “Berylia”.

The annual event is the world’s largest exercise of its kind and ran April 9-12.

(The Czech Republic came second; Sweden third in the exercise. NATO is not releasing a full list of how the 23 participating national teams ranked).

Blue teams (defensive teams) from 23 nations played the role of  national rapid reaction teams that are deployed to assist Berylia in handling large-scale cyber incidents, maintaining around 4,000 virtualised systems while experiencing more than 2,500 attacks. They were working on blue team networks custom-built for the exercise that included a variety of services and platforms, both civilian and military.

The exercise has been running since 2010. This year’s Locked Shields exercise focussed on the need for improved dialogue between experts and decision-makers, with operating body the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) integrating the technical and strategic games for the first time.

NATO said in a release: “Many of the business IT-systems and military relevant systems used in the exercise were taken to a new level of complexity, for example the power distribution system had this year also power generation component.”

According to the scenario Berylia was experiencing a deteriorating security situation, where a number of hostile events coincide with coordinated cyber attacks against a major civilian internet service provider and maritime surveillance system.

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The attacks caused severe disruptions in the power generation and distribution, 4G communication systems, maritime surveillance, water purification plant and other critical infrastructure components. While the aim of the tech game was to maintain the operation of various systems under intense pressure, the strategic part addresses the capability to understand the impact of decisions made at the strategic and policy level.

NATO said Locked Shields “offers an unprecedented opportunity for nations to challenge themselves in an authentic but safe training environment while being aggressively challenged by highly skilled adversaries. The network which the Blue Teams must defend consists of more than 150 virtual hosts per team.”

The exercise addresses areas which have proved to be most challenging for Blue Teams in recent years, NATO said, including:

  • Protecting unfamiliar specialised systems;
  • Writing good situation reports under serious time pressure;
  • Detecting and mitigating attacks in large and complex IT environments;
  • Well-coordinated teamwork.

Locked Shields runs on Cyber Range, a platform managed by the Estonian Defence Forces. (Computer Business Review has requested more details on the exercise and winning team and will update as received.)

The exercise is run by NATO alongside 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 AG, Elisa, Cybernetica, Cisco, Threod Systems, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, Arctic Security, Clarified Security, Iptron, Bittium, STM, Bytelife, BHC Laboratory, and more.

See also: Blackberry Wins NATO Contract

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