‘Locked Shields’ cyber exercise begins at NATO centre in Tallinn

Locked Shields 2018, which describes itself as the largest and most advanced international live-fire cyber defence exercise in the world, began on the 25 April at the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD COE) in Tallinn.

This year's edition of the annual exercise which started in 2010 includes both a technical and a strategic dimension, the main aim of which is to practice protecting key services and military systems in the event of a large-scale cyberattack. More than 1,000 experts from 30 countries are taking part in the exercise.

Only members of the CCD COE or key partners can take part in the exercise with a ‘Blue Team’ protecting the computer systems and information systems of an imaginary country that has come under attack. 22 Blue Teams are taking part this year, including teams representing NATO and the EU. Participants must be able to protect the system against cyberattacks targeting the power grid, 4G public safety networks, a water purification station and control systems of military drones.

In addition to a large-scale cyberattack, a number of other developments undermining security will take place in the country under attack, with the aim of offering a real life-like picture of the scope of the impact that cyber incidents can have.

The CCD COE is a NATO-accredited cyber defence hub focusing on research, training and exercises. Based in Estonia the centre is a community of currently 20 nations (Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States) providing a 360-degree look at cyber defence, with expertise in the areas of technology, strategy, operations and law. NATO now considers cyberspace to be a conflict domain alongside that of air, sea and land.

Portugal announced this week that it would also be joining the CCD COE and two NATO partner countries - Australia and Japan - have also done so. The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, announced the decision to join the centre during his visit to Estonia on 12 January, while Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said in a statement on the 23 April that “Australia welcomes the opportunity to deepen engagement with the world-leading cyber defence experts at the NATO CCDCOE”. “Now, more than ever, we must engage with the international community to set clear expectations for responsible state behaviour in cyberspace. The international rules based order applies online, just as it does offline”, she added. Australia will be observing this year’s Locked Shields exercise.

The CCD COE also publishes the Tallinn Manual 2.0, a comprehensive guide on how international law applies to cyber operations, and organises an annual International Conference on Cyber Conflict (CyCon). The tenth anniversary event, CyCon X: Maximizing Effects, will take place from 30 May to 1 June. On the eve of Cycon X (on the 29 May), the CCD COE will host in partnership with the Munich Security Conference the Cyber Security Summit.