NATO Cyber Coalition hosts participants from 40 countries

Participants at the Cyber Coalition 2018 exercise.
Participants at the Cyber Coalition 2018 exercise. Source: NATO CCD COE

Participants from 40 states are rehearsing various scenarios at this year's NATO cyber defense exercise Cyber Coalition for the purpose of improving cooperation in the cyberspace, increasing the alliance's operational capability and contributing to the transformation of NATO's cyberspace.

The cyber defense exercise, which began in Tallinn on Monday and lasts until Friday, is one of the largest in the world and was conducted with physical attendance for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) announced on Thursday.

Participants in Cyber Coalition 2021 include, in addition to NATO member states, also four partner states and four observer countries, as well as representatives of state-owned enterprises, research establishments and national cyber defense centers - altogether close to 1,000 people.

The topics of the exercise have varied year to year, the key word for this year's Cyber Coalition was ransomware attacks, the detection and resolution of which tested member states' cooperation. Ransomware attacks are made every 11 seconds nowadays with 65 percent of them made through phishing activities.

Director of Cyber Coalition, Cdr. Graeme Rook, said that the abbreviation CC, often used for the exercise, is very fitting, as it could also stand for cyber cooperation, but definitely not cyber competition.

"As a group of people, we are not here to compete with one another; instead, we're developing cooperation using skills from different backgrounds, which can be developed and tested in the course of this exercise," Rook said.

For the first time, Cyber Coalition was carried out on the premises of the CR14 foundation in Tallinn. The planners of the exercise have designed a larger number of scenarios than usual.

From the Estonian side, the exercise demonstrated improved cooperation between the Cyber and Information Operations Center of the defense forces' Cyber Command and the Cyber Unit of the Defense League)volunteer corps.

"What we have here are so-called blue teams, who receive certain scenarios from the exercise's control headquarters; there are also technical, procedural and legal issues that the teams must resolve," head of the Defense League's Cyber Unit Andres Hairk said.

Cyber Coalition is the largest cyber exercise of the Allied Command Transformation, in the course of which the defense of the cyberspace is rehearsed based on a fictional scenario, enabling to hone control procedures, cooperation between various states and organizations and to strengthen capability for cyber operations.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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