Experts from the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) joined annual exercise Locked Shields, the largest and most complex international life-fire cyber defence exercise in the world.
The exercise was organized by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Tallinn, Estonia from 18-21 April 2023.
Nearly 20 NCI Agency experts participated in Locked Shields alongside on a team co-led by Denmark and the United Kingdom's Ministries of Defence. The team joined the exercise on-site from the Defence Cyber Academy in Shrivenham, United Kingdom.
Exercise Locked Shields uses realistic scenarios to sharpen the cyber defence skills of cyber security experts from the Alliance, NATO Member Countries and Partners. Employing a game-based simulation, the exercise prepares participants to adequately protect their national network systems and essential infrastructure during a real-time attack. Locked Shields is a red team vs. blue team exercise wherein the blue teams employs cutting edge technologies to defend their fictitious nation against the sophisticated attacks of the red team.
Working as cyber defenders on one of 24 blue teams, the Agency's experts trained on protecting applications and critical infrastructure systems, such as government and military networks, financial institutions 5G communication systems and gas pipeline industrial controllers.
"This exercise is a great opportunity to challenge our skills and processes in a highly compromised environment. The team has gained significant experience both technically and on the collaboration with cyber experts from NATO countries," said Loïc Fortemps, Cyber Security Engineer and exercise team lead, NATO Cyber Security Centre.
In addition to the technical challenges of protecting and mitigating disruptions to critical infrastructures, the blue teams legal experts also combated the legal ramifications that resulted from the red teams' large-scale cyber-attacks. Additionally, strategic communications and media experts worked to counter the red team's disinformation and propaganda campaigns.
Throughout the four-day exercise, over 3000 participants from across 38 Allied and Partner Nations successfully reported, identified and responded to incidents to defend national civilian and military IT systems and critical infrastructure.
Exercise Locked Shields allows cyber defenders to share their knowledge while working together to protect their nations in a timely manner during moments of crisis. Locked Shields 2023 marks the 13th year that the NCI Agency has participated in the annual exercise.