December 16, 2020
through Gerard Cowan
NATO’s Cyber Coalition 2020 exercise, which took place virtually between November 16 and 20, tested the alliance’s capabilities in the field and allowed it to experiment with new techniques and technologies, with particular emphasis on situational awareness in cyberspace.
While exercise controllers typically run the event from the Estonian Cyber Range 14 (CR-14), this year they and participants were distributed internationally for the first time due to restrictions of Covid-19.
The Cyber Coalition 2020 exercise scenario took place in a European geography, centered on a fictional island in the North Atlantic. (NATO)
Cyber Coalition is a team exercise rather than a competitive one, which means participants work together toward a particular goal, instead of competing to solve problems or complete specific tasks, said U.S. Navy Commander Robert Buckles, Director of Exercise Cyber Coalition 2020. The exercise included approximately 1,000 participants from 25 NATO member states, four partner countries and the European Union (EU), in particular the the EU and the EU Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-EU).
The exercise scenario took place at a location based in Europe and focused on a fictional island in the North Atlantic. This island – called Icebergen – was divided into two nations: one of them, Andvaria, had recently become a member of NATO, while the other, Harbardus, was neutral. In the scenario, NATO had recently established a mission in Andvaria, although the recently elected government of Harbardus is hostile to its neighbor and to the alliance in general.
“This created a tension within the exercise, enough to generate cybernetic effects via an advanced persistent threat.” [APTs] and other means, ”said Cdr Buckles Janes. APTs are a form of cyber attack in which an adversary slowly and covertly expands their presence in a network, usually over long periods of time. These and other cyber effects of the exercise were technical in nature and required a response from exercise participants through cyber defense operations, Cdr Buckles said.
The exercise also provided a platform for the development of war through experimentation, added Cdr Buckles, by bringing new types of situational awareness tools or testing NATO defenses against more current cyber threats.
“In a way, we provide a platform for training teams to practice, but we also provide a platform for experimenting with new tools. “
This year’s experimentation focused on “enriching situational awareness for the military commander,” said Dr Alberto Domingo, technical director of cyberspace operations, Allied Command Transformation (ACT), who’s is expressed during a briefing at the end of the exercise. While situational awareness is a long established discipline, “in cyberspace it’s pretty new, it’s pretty hard to grasp right now,” Domingo said. Therefore, one of the main objectives of the exercise was to validate the use of an underdeveloped cyberspace situational awareness concept that could support decision making.
NATO’s Cyber Coalition 2020 exercise, which took place virtually between 16 and 20 November, has …