Estonia hosts world’s largest technical cyber defense exercise


Participants gather around a screen during Locked Shields 2016. (Photo Credit: CCDCOE)

The services and networks of a military air base are under attack, and only a well-trained team of international cyber defenders working at breakneck speed can defeat the invaders trying to wrest control of the base’s electric power grid system, drones, military command and control systems and other operational infrastructure.

Sure, this sounds like the plot to a sweet Fast & Furious franchise spin-off, but it’s actually the foundations for Locked Shields 2017, the largest international technical cyber defense exercise in the world.

Organized by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, and taking place April 24-28, this scenario-based, real-time network defense exercise reflects current trends and focuses on threats to both ordinary business IT and specialized systems. Examples include the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system controlling the power grid, an AirC2 system used for planning military air operations and drone missions, and programmable logic controllers controlling the fuel supply of the air base.

Specialists have been training for months to play the part of the attackers, taking part in earlier technical execution exercises such as Crossed Shields.

More on Crossed Shieds: NATO cyber exercise incorporates ‘cyber-kinetic’ engagement

Around 800 participants from 25 nations will form “Blue Teams” tasked with defending more than 3,000 virtualized systems from the opposing forces. Accessing the secure, exercise networks from their home bases, these teams will handle the technical aspects of stopping the infiltrations, while a parallel strategic track acts as a decision-making exercise for policy officers and legal advisors.

More information on the organizers, industry partners and exercises of Locked Shields can be found at