Fending Off Cyber Attacks – NATO Exercises in Estonia
Ukraine is frequently under attack from Russian hackers
The NATO-supported “Locked Shields” exercises were an opportunity to practice handling severe attacks against vital IT systems and critical infrastructure.
In a control room, cybersecurity experts held drills for dealing with potentially crippling hacking attacks on energy, water, and communication networks – while also practicing handling post-election public unrest.
The exercises aimed at improving how decision-makers and experts cooperate in a chain of command across civil and military levels.
Colonel Jaak Tarien, who leads NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence used Ukraine as an example where Russia’s cyber threat has been all too real.
“For example (to) protect the critical infrastructure – Ukraine lost power in 2015 December and 2016 December and quite clearly it was the work of Russian GRU cyber units. So it is very much a real-world target – that power grid, power distribution system or electrical power plant may be a target of a cyber attack these days,” Tarien said.
In recent years, Russia’s increasingly hostile actions in the cyber domain, as part of a broader intelligence and informational warfare strategy, mean NATO member states can no longer be complacent in maintaining cybersecurity.
“So it is real-life technology, it is just not specifically connected to real life today. So there are no actual ships that are taking navigation inputs from the systems that we have in here and it is a good thing too because some of those inputs will be flawed just because the Red Team is going to attack them today,” the head of the “White Team” in the Locked Shields 2019 Exercise Rain Ottis said.
While the main aim is to ensure complex systems still work under intense cyber attacks, the strategic part helps participants learn how to more effectively report incidents and deal with legal and media challenges.
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