World’s Largest International Technical Cyber Defence Exercise Trains Network Defenders

26 nations and more than 550 top computer security professionals are participating in Locked Shields 2016, hosted by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. The exercise trains computer emergency response experts to defend realistic networks against a variety of threats.

“Locked Shields is unique in forcing the hands-on network defenders from 19 nations and NATO to work together and exchange information. International cooperation is the key to successful cyber defence and this exercise is a perfect example of doing just that,” says Sven Sakkov, director the Tallinn-based NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a think tank and training centre behind Locked Shields. “The impact of the exercise, therefore, goes a lot further than technical skills. These computer emergency response teams – be they civilian or military – will better know whom to call when needing assistance in the future.”

“The organizers have built identical virtual networks for the all the defensive teams in this scenario-based exercise. They play the role of the rapid reaction teams of the fictional country of Berylia, protecting a total of about 2000 machines,” highlights exercise architect Jaan Priisalu, Senior Fellow at of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. Locked Shields uses realistic networks, technologies and attack methods on par with real-world developments, Priisalu adds.

“We introduced smart phones and critical infrastructure components such as power grid to Locked Shields last year. A central part of the scenario focused on drones and regaining control of own systems after they have been broken into,” Priisalu says. “In 2016, the networks include a variety of operating platforms: Windows 8 and 10, Linux and Apple IOS. The services the Blue Teams have to maintain range from websites, e-mail and online shopping to industrial control systems.”

Locked Shields 2016 is the biggest and most advanced international live-fire cyber defence exercise in the world. The annual scenario-based real-time network defence exercise, organised since 2010 by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, focuses on training the security experts who protect national IT systems.

20 Blue Teams representing 19 nations and NATO Computer Incident Response Capability (NCIRC) are tasked to maintain the networks and services of a fictional country, Berylia under intense pressure. This includes handling and reporting incidents, solving forensic challenges as well as responding to legal, media and scenario injects. While the organizers of the exercise will gather in Tallinn, Estonia, the participating Blue Teams will have online access to the exercise networks and typically work from their home countries.

The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (NATO CCD COE) is a NATO-accredited knowledge hub, think-tank and training facility. The international military organisation focuses on interdisciplinary applied research and development, as well as consultations, trainings and exercises in the field of cyber security. Locked Shields 2016 is organised in cooperation with the Estonian Defence Forces, the Finnish Defence Forces, the Swedish Defence College, the British Army, the United States European Command, and numerous other partners. More information can be found at


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