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NATO prepares for world's largest cyber war game

Alexander Martin Technology reporter @AlexMartin

Military cyber security specialists are preparing for the largest cyber war game in the world, which kicks off on 14th April as the fictional NATO member state of Berylia comes under attack. The real-time NATO exercise will include defenders practising the protection of critical civilian and military infrastructure, including water treatment facilities and energy plants.

Amid the increasing risk of real international conflict, the exercise will also include legal teams who will need to figure out if and when a particular action is acceptable under international law, as well as strategic communications experts to handle disinformation.

Organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) based in Tallinn, Estonia, the Locked Shields exercise is an annual network defence drill using real-world skills.

The scenario is based on an attack on the fictional country of Berylia - hypothetically situated in the northern Atlantic - and an adversary called Crimsonia that is creating some artificial islands.

Although the adversary is not mapped to a specific NATO adversary, Crimsonia has traits of both Russia and China in its ambitions and conduct.

The idea is to test multiple teams' skills just as they would be tested if they were forced to remotely come to the aid of NATO ally Berylia as it is targeted by "a sophisticated and intense series of cyber attacks".

Participants include specialists working for NATO member states through to the CCDCOE's private sector partners that develop the operating technology that supports critical national infrastructure.

The defenders are scored on how effective they are not only in securing complex IT systems, but also in reporting incidents, making strategic decisions, and solving forensic, legal, media and information operations challenges.

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