NATO stages its largest cyber exercise to date

The multinational Cyber Coalition 2014 tests the organization’s ability quickly share information and coordinate a response to a series of attacks.

NATO is wrapping up its largest cyber defense exercise to date, a three-day multinational event designed to test defending networks through rapid sharing of information on cyber incidents.

The seventh annual exercise, dubbed Cyber Coalition 2014, runs from Tuesday through Thursday and involves more than 400 technical, government and cyber experts from more than 30 countries responding to simulated attacks. In addition to the 28 NATO countries, several non-member countries took part. Representatives from industry and academia also were invited for the first time to take part as observers.

“This exercise will test our systems to make sure that NATO keeps pace with that evolving threat and that the skills and expertise of our cyber specialists are fully up to the task,” Sorin Ducaru, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, said in a NATO announcement.

In addition to information sharing, the exercise also is designed to work on coordinating a response to a series of attacks on a NATO mission network.

Training and coordinated exercises were among the recommendations of the Wales NATO Summit in September, where member nations agreed that attacks in the cyber domain had the potential to seriously threaten national and NATO security, and moved to strengthen the organization’s cyber policy. In 2007, Estonia, which hosted last year’s Cyber Coalition, was the target of a strong cyberattack—largely attributed to Russia—that shut down many of the country’s essential networks. Russian hackers, whether working for the state or independently, also were suspected in an attack that briefly shut down NATO’s website in March this year.

“The cyber threat is not just a potential threat, it is daily reality,” Ducaru said. “Conflicts can be virtual but with consequences that are real and destructive.”

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