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05 February 2018

Exercise Crossed Swords Practised Cyber-Kinetic Operations in Latvia

Crossed Swords 2018, the technical red teaming cyber defence exercise of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, took place last week in Latvia in cooperation with CERT.LV. This year the exercise expanded considerably in scope and complexity, covering several geographical areas, involving critical information infrastructure providers and cyber-kinetic engagement of military units.

“The exercise aims to practice skills required to fill the role of the Red Team at cyber defence exercises and to offer the most cutting-edge and challenging training experience for national cyber defenders. It is evident that in order to defend ourselves better in cyber space, we need to know how attacks are carried out,” explained Aare Reintam, Project Manager of Technical Exercises at the NATO CCD COE. „Exercise Crossed Swords offers a complete inside-out understanding of the most current cyber threats,” added Reintam.

Crossed Swords 2018 focused on enhancing further cooperation and information sharing between civilian and military spheres, joining together Critical Information Infrastructure (CII) providers and military units. For the first time several kinetic and cyber operations were carried out simultaneously in different geographical locations. In 2018 the exercise involved more than 80 participants from 15 countries.

”This year we used the mobile network technologies for identifying a target, drone surveillance and 5G sensors for acquiring its location and gathering further information enabling to accomplish the goal. Operations in cyber space, no matter how vast it is, can reach only as far as it has some form of connectivity,” said Bernhards Blumbergs, cyber security expert from CERT.LV. “In cases where a desired target is not directly reachable over cyber space, the kinetic engagement by military units equipped with the latest technological and tactical advancements is required to execute such an operation,” added Blumbergs.

Crossed Swords is the sister exercise of Locked Shields, the world’s largest and most complex international technical cyber defence exercise. It focuses on training penetration testers, digital forensics professionals, situational awareness experts that fill the role of the attacking team at Locked Shields.

The exercise was organized by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a NATO-accredited cyber defence hub in Tallinn in partnership with CERT.LV. In addition Latvian Ministry of Defence, Latvian Armed Forces, Latvian Cyber Defence Unit, Estonian Defence Forces, Estonian Cyber Defence League, Utica College, Latvian Mobile Telephone, BHC, Grey Cortex, Stamus Networks, Threod, Defendec, Martem and others contributed expertise and technology.