Locked Shields Exercise Featured a Connection between Cyber and Information Operations

The active phase of the largest and most complex international live-fire cyber defence exercise Locked Shields 2021 came to end today. Altogether 22 Blue Teams, including a NATO Alliance team, practiced defence of complex IT networks in the event of a large-scale cyberattack. In addition to maintaining more than nearly 5000 virtualised systems including realistic replications of critical national infrastructure, while experiencing more than 2500 attacks, the teams had to tackle the influence of information operations.

Locked Shields is a Red team vs Blue Team exercise, where the latter are formed by member nations and partners of CCDCOE. The participating Blue Teams play the role of national cyber Rapid Reaction Teams that are deployed to assist a fictional country in handling large-scale cyber incidents and all their multiple implications.

“Our aim is to give the participating technical experts a realistic experience of being their nation’s front-line defender in case of a large-scale cyber attack. With the help of our industrial partners we have built a target set consisting of vital national infrastructure elements and military systems. Such a full spectrum of technical cyber targets to be defended is what sets Locked Shields apart from most other cyber exercises,” said Col Jaak Tarien, Director of the CCDCOE.

“This year the Exercise featured several new dilemmas for the strategic decision making element as well. The financial services sector was highlighted as a vector for enemy attack. The exercise examined how evolving technologies, such as deepfakes, will shape future conflict. The cyber domain and information warfare operate hand in hand in the modern environment. Strong strategic communication policies can mitigate the effects of an enemy`s information warfare campaign,” explained Cdr Michael Widmann, Chief of the CCDCOE Strategy Branch. “In general the exercise was more challenging than ever before due to coordination of teams happening remotely around the world in different time zones. This represents our new reality of executing and coordinating complex exercises with remote partners,” Cdr Widmann added.

Locked Shields 2021 is organised by CCDCOE in cooperation with NATO Communications and Information Agency, the Estonian Ministry of Defence, the Estonian Defence Forces, Siemens, Ericsson, TalTech, Foundation CR14, Bittium, Clarified Security, Arctic Security, Cisco, Stamus Networks, SpaceIT, Sentinel, the Financial Service Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), US Defense Innovation Unit, Microsoft, Atech, Avibras, SUTD iTrust Singapore, The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, European Defence Agency, Space ISAC, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), STM, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, NATO M&S COE and PaloAlto networks.

Photos of the Locked Shields 2021