Cyber war game staged as geopolitical tensions soar

As Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of an expansion of its invasion of Ukraine, the largest ever Western Europe-led cyber battle exercise has taken place.

Organised by a team of cyber specialists from the British Army, Defence Cyber Marvel 2 (DCM2) was the culmination of more than 12 months of training for more than 750 cyber specialists, including Defence personnel, government agencies, industry partners, and other nations.

Hosted in Tallinn, Estonia, the exercise saw teams from across the world respond to common and complex simulated cyber threats including attacks to networks, industry control systems and unmanned robotic systems – simulating some of the tactics Russia used to disrupt Ukrainian cyberspace in the early days of the invasion one year ago. In all 34 teams from 11 countries, including Ukraine, took part in a live-fire cyber battle.

Nearly 900 personnel from the British Army, Royal Navy and RAF took part along with teams from the armed forces of several other countries.

Ran as a seven-day competition, participants were judged on the effectiveness and speed of their response and how quickly they identify and adapt to new threats – vital for developing war fighters for the digital age.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said: “The modern battlefield is evolving at an unprecedented pace, it is therefore vital that our personnel are trained to adapt quickly in this crucial domain and can recognise cyber threats with capability and speed.”

Many teams were based in their home countries but were virtually connected to a cyber range controlled in Tallinn, Estonia, enabling more countries to take part.

Allowing personnel from across the Armed Forces to build their skills within the cyber and electromagnetic domain, the event also offered the opportunity to share learning and best practice across the Armed Forces and with other nations taking part including Italy, Japan, Kenya and Oman.

Colonel Ian Hargreaves chair of the Army Cyber Association said: “The Army Cyber Association was set up by Royal Signals officers, prior to the formation of 13 Signal Regiment, as a cyber operations professional development network. It is volunteer run and entirely inclusive for any Service person who wants to develop their cyberspace knowledge and skills.

“Our focus has always been talent identification, recognition and development with a big wraparound of innovation. We must innovate to stay ahead of those that would wish us harm and Defence Cyber Marvel 2 is the next evolution of our pioneering collective education.”

He added: “The exercise has ensured that all those taking part understand the potential and risks that cyberspace provides and gave them the opportunity to experiment and develop their cyber skills. It was designed to stretch the most experienced, battle-hardened, cyber specialists in UK Defence.”

Lieutenant general Tom Copinger-Symes deputy commander strategic command such exercises were vital as the threat from state-led cyber-attacks increased.

“Events like Defence Cyber Marvel showcase the talent we already have in Defence,” he added. “They get to exercise and learn with folk from a vast array of different nations, backgrounds and specialisations – all united by a common purpose – to hone their skills to a fine edge, in order to protect our people, our prosperity and our principles.

“At UK Strategic Command we’re committed to finding and nurturing individuals with those skills, especially those who are about to finish their studies and are eager for a unique challenge on the front-line of UK’s defence.

“Defence is committed to providing its personnel with the skills needed to respond to non-traditional threats with the establishment of the Defence Cyber Academy and launch of the Cyber Aptitude Assessment being designed to identify and foster talent.”

Hosted in Tallinn, Estonia, the exercise saw teams from across the world respond to common and complex simulated cyber threats including attacks to networks, industry control systems and unmanned robotic systems – simulating some of the tactics Russia used to disrupt Ukrainian cyberspace in the early days of the invasion one year ago.

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