SACEUR Visits Red Teaming Exercise Crossed Swords in Estonia

Yesterday, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Tod D. Wolters visited Crossed Swords – unique full-spectrum training session to practice offensive cyber, including penetration testing and digital forensics. He was accompanied by the Director of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE), Colonel Jaak Tarien.

According to General Wolters, success in the 21st century security environment demands that we evolve to compete in new domains. “Cyber threats to the security of the Alliance are becoming more frequent, complex, and destructive. We must engage with academic institutions and the private sector to enhance global cyber defenses and improve interoperability,” General Wolters said.

The director of the NATO CCDCOE, Col Jaak Tarien, said that Crossed Swords, run for the 10th time, focuses on experimentation with integrating kinetics and offensive cyber operations in the context of a modern battlefield.

“The exercise tests the capabilities and practises the skills that participants would need when planning and executing a full-spectrum cyber operation, together with elements from other domains,” said Col Tarien.

He added that realistic technologies and attack methods, as well as the scenario, are inspired by events that have been seen in a range of situations – together these constitute realistic threats to national security in the current environment and are exercised within the context of a fictional scenario.

“It is not possible to build a resilient defence without knowing the most current offensive tools and techniques,” added Col Tarien.

He added that over the years, Crossed Swords has evolved from a relatively straightforward technical training workshop to an exercise that also involves leadership training for the command element, legal aspects and joint cyber-kinetic operations.

This year’s exercise brings together around 100 participants from more than 21 countries, including NATO and non-NATO member states. The exercise is conducted from the exercise and training centre CR14.

What does the scenario for this year’s Crossed Swords entail?

The scenario for this year entails regaining control of an internal security situation by means of policing and offensive cyber operations in Berylia. The exercise is based in the fictional state of Berylia, an island nation in the Atlantic Ocean roughly the size of Spain. Berylia is a parliamentary democracy, an associate member of the EU progressing towards full membership status and has ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime. Approximately 300 km to the south of Berylia is the island of Crimsonia. It is roughly the size of the UK and has a similar climate to Berylia. Crimsonia is a weak parliamentary democracy with a very strong political oligarchy and is not well regarded by the international community.

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