NATO hub hails major international cyber defense exercise

NATO hub hails major international cyber defense exercise
© Getty Images

A NATO hub focused on cyber defense is training network security experts from about two-dozen countries in how to defend the networks of a military air base in the event of severe cyberattacks. 

The 2017 “Locked Shields” exercise underway this week represents the largest international technical cyber defense exercise, according to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, which has hosted the annual event since 2010.

Locked Shields is a scenario-based exercise aimed at helping to train participating security experts in protecting national IT infrastructure.


This year’s exercise scenario directs teams security experts to defend the networks of a fictional country’s military air base when its electric power grid, drones, military command and control systems and operational infrastructure fall under severe cyberattack. 

The exercise features about 800 participants from 25 different nations worldwide and also involves protecting several specialized IT systems, including a large-scale system that controls the power grid and a system used for military planning.

“Taking into consideration current key trends in cybersecurity, we are introducing even more specialized systems to the exercise,” said Aare Reintam, the technical director at the center. “This enables us to prepare cybersecurity experts to protect even better vital networks and systems that they are not working with on a regular basis.”

“In the course of the years Locked Shields has become a benchmark of live-fire technical exercises for our partners and other like-minded nations, the model of this exercise has been used in several countries,” Reintam said.

The organizers of the exercise are meeting in Tallin, Estonia, where the center is based, but members of the defense teams are participating from their home bases.

The NATO cyber center facilitated the development of the Tallinn Manual 2.0, a comprehensive analysis by legal experts of how existing international law applies to cyberspace. The latest version of the manual was released in February.

NATO has put more emphasis on cyber defense as cyber intrusions on the alliance’s networks have become more common. NATO reported earlier this year that its infrastructure came under threat from 500 cyberattacks monthly in 2016.

The alliance declared cyberspace as a domain of operations in which NATO must defend itself at a summit in Poland last July.