COLOGNE, Germany – Military cyber response teams from 18 European nations conducted a live fire drill this week to test the bloc’s ability to pool its forces in the event of a cyber attack.
Organized by the European Defense Agency, the event is the opening salvo of a summer campaign that includes training and conferences. The idea is to improve collaboration in an area that, compared to the civilian world, is still not ready to share sensitive threat data and tactics across borders.
It is the first time that officials have looked at cyberthreats from a purely military point of view at the EU level. Defense capabilities are seen as increasingly important as new weapon systems rely heavily on data and communication, which could make them easy targets for hackers.
Officials called the exercise a “live fire” event because it took place over a cloud-based cyber reach with real targets. In the case of three teams of opposing forces, including one made up of experts from five Member States, the defense teams had to react to unforeseen attacks. The scenario involved figuring out where attacks originated and determining who was behind them.
Mario Beccia, EDA cyber defense project leader, said the focus of the exercise is on helping teams work together between different countries rather than using the latest technology. “It is our attempt to create a structure in which the military personnel can concentrate on working together,” he said in a virtual press conference on February 17th.
One of the typical challenges facing computer emergency teams (CERT) in armed forces is protecting the control infrastructure of drones and spacecraft, Beccia said.
EDA staff hired the Estonian company CybExer Technologies to provide the cyber area for the exercise so that participants can log in remotely. The company also contributed two of the red teams.
The search for a cloud-based provider was necessary because the existing training infrastructure in the member states requires physical access to servers and computers, says Beccia. Such an island location is a symbol of the mysterious world of the military cyber reaction.
“Military units are used to working in silos,” Aare Reintam, CybExer’s chief operating officer, told reporters.
Beccia added: “Cooperation between military CERTs is currently low.”
According to an EDA declaration, a June conference is on the program next, at which the knowledge gained is to be summarized and steps to be taken at a strategic level for improved cooperation.