Exercising together against cyber attacks MASTER
For three days, 29 nations worked together to prevent various simulated computer viruses and malicious programmes from infiltrating their networks. A large-scale network exercise organized by NATO.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance based on the North Atlantic Treaty signed on 4 April 1949. NATO constitutes a system of collective defense in response to an attack by any external party. The NATO headquarters are in Brussels, Belgium.
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Transcripts / Production notes / Scripts
Adrien is focused on his screen. It shows that a malicious programme has just got into the NATO pipeline system. This information is not fact. Adrien is one of the leaders of the NATO cyber coalition exercise. He shares the information with his French points of contact, who are immediately notified of the computer incident. It is handled in France, and contacts are rapidly established with other countries.
« On utilise pour ça plein de systèmes d'information que ce soit internet, que ce soit les réseaux confidentiels de l'OTAN et on fait un effort de partage qu'on ferait dans la vie réelle si on faisait face à une crise comme ça »
“We use all sorts of information systems, whether it’s the internet or the NATO confidential networks, and we try to share the information like we would in real life if we faced a crisis such as this.”
A Lithuanian receives the same information. In his country the experts deal with the same problem, also linked up with the other countries taking part.
“We defend, we analyse images. We analyse malware. We're doing the technical analysis.”
The scenario was drawn up by NATO as part of the new cyber coalition exercise. The Alliance has been holding this exercise since 2008, and opened it to the nations in 2009. The aim: to test national cooperation on cyber defence.
During the exercise, information about the crisis is sent from here to the SHAPE military Headquarters in Belgium.
Those taking part have to react from their countries. 23 NATO nations and six partners are involved in the exercise. Some are players. The light blue countries on the map. Others are contributors or observers.
These 29 countries are on line for long periods over the three days. New Zealand and Australia are taking part this year. Players must deal with various geopolitical computer crisis scenarios like the threat to the energy sector. Viruses and general malicious code must be countered.
Of course the scenarios are invented and the threats are not real.
“We've seen similar attacks in the wild, so in the real world. So, everything we created here is not fictive. Well it's fictive but it can happen in real world too. We try to prepare our targets audience for such situations.”
“Everything we play is in a controlled environment. We don't inject malware, viruses on operational systems. Everything we play is strictly controlled. We make sure that the malware is unable to spread to operational systems.”
So the players must be alert and react fast.
Each nation has to mobilize dozens of experts. There is no question of revealing all the national skill pool, but the players must communicate as much as possible. And cooperation between nations is not always simple in the cyber field.
“It is very very difficult. For example, you have the language barrier, it's one thing, and just what constitutes a cyber event is often different between countries, so we have to work out that for verbiage, and we have to work out what is an attack, what is a cyber event, what do we have to look at. So by having these exercises, that's the way we can work through these events.”
« Les scénarios sont pensés pour développer la coopération internationale donc c'est l'occasion pour nous de développer des relations avec nos partenaires.. »
“The scenarios are designed to improve international cooperation, so it’s the chance for us to build relationships with our partners.”.
At NATO Headquarters in Brussels players are also mobilized. The Alliance is attacked just like a state, and must protect its infrastructures.
For NATO, the organizer of this exercise, the aim is to build up the expertise of all as regards cyber defence.
“Some countries have taken it very seriously and have trained people and have proper cyber defence systems. Others have come in to it very light. They don't have a sufficient number of experts. They don't have the same understanding of the threat or the malware. They don't have the same detection or analysis capability. So what NATO can do, for example with the centre of excellence in Estonia, is to be the place where we bring everybody up to the same level of protection, which is our interest after all, because in NATO we're always vulnerable to our weakest link. We can train people, we can have exercises like that to train people expertise.”
So more than 250 computer data streams have been sent to nations over three days. Each participant will prepare a report on lessons learned for general sharing.
An essential multinational effort. For if a cyber threat is spreading through the world, the response must be international.
Laetitia Chadenat for Natochannel
Year of Production: 2011
Country: United States