The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE) annual cyber defence exercise Locked Shields 2023 started in Tallinn.
For four days, more than 3,000 participants from 38 nations will protect real computer systems from real-time attacks, and train tactical and strategical decision-making in critical situations. In addition to defending systems, teams must report incidents, execute strategic decisions, and solve forensic, legal, and media challenges.
Locked Shields is a training exercise that pits an attacking Red Team against defending Blue Teams, composed of NATO CCDCOE member states and partner nations.
“This past year has shown us how important strength in cyber defence is. Cyber warfare may not be as visible as kinetic warfare, but it is integrated into wartime activities. Ukraine has strong digital competences, and that has meant that their state can keep delivering essential digital services even in wartime. Cyber competence grows through investments, but not only monetary ones – exercises like these, where allies with shared values also exchange know-how and train together, are key to continued resilience,” said Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur.
Locked Shields, the major international cyber defense exercise organized by the NATO CCDCOE, underscores the importance of not just technical expertise, but also strategy and cooperation.
According to Mart Noorma, director of NATO CCDCOE, cyber crises require a coordinated effort among decision-makers and experts from diverse government bodies and professions. „Locked Shields thus focuses not only on cyber defense, but also on strategy games, legal issues, and crisis communication. In the event of a major cyberattack, swift cooperation is crucial to prevent the escalation of a security crisis.“
Noorma emphasizes that exercises like Locked Shields help ensure that we are better prepared to handle such scenarios.
The 24 participating Blue Teams represent national cyber Rapid Reaction Teams, deployed to assist a fictional country under large-scale cyberattacks. Their task is to protect the mock state's information systems and critical infrastructure, like banking system and power plant, from thousands of attacks, make management decisions in a crisis situation, and ensure that decisions are well considered.
In addition to training, Locked Shields is also a competitive exercise. In 2022, the Finnish Blue Team came out on top by demonstrating solid network and web defenses, and they excelled in situation reporting.
Locked Shields has been organized in Tallinn by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE) since 2010.