CYBER WAR GAMES HELD
U.S. Cyber Command recently conducted large-scale digital war games that involved cyberattacks and defense against foreign strikes on critical infrastructure.
Cyber Command — led by Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, who is also director of the National Security Agency — said in a statement that the exercise “Cyber Flag” was “forceon-force” training, “fusing attack and defense across the full spectrum of military operations in a closed network environment.”
The drills were held Friday at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and sought to gauge military cybercapabilities that will be integrated with other war-fighting commands.
Future conflicts are expected to involve cyberattacks against critical infrastructure, specifically electrical grids and communications networks that can be hacked and shut down or ordered to conduct self-destructive operations.
Few details on exercise scenarios were disclosed, in fitting with Cyber Command’s NSA-like penchant for secrecy.
“This year’s scenario, devised by exercise planners, involved a simulated combined joint task force response to a notional regional crisis involving fictional state and nonstate actors conducting significant activity in cyberspace,” the command statement said.
A Cyber Command spokesman did not respond to a request for details on the exercise.
Adm. Rogers, according to the release, wants the Pentagon to build cyberwarfare capabilities “to generate military options for senior military leaders and decision-makers.”
Adm. Rogers “stressed that the U.S. cannot wait until a cyberspace crisis affects the nation or DOD’s ability to conduct military operations to develop partnerships, generate cybercapacity and capability and ensure coordination processes are in place for national or military response.”
“Cyber is a team effort, and given the resource constraints and capacity shortfalls, we need to partner in a way that optimizes operational outcomes,” the four-star admiral said. “This exercise is an incredible opportunity to strengthen our relationships with critical partners.”
The exercise involved joint and coalition cyberoperations with air, land and naval forces, which practiced identifying and defending cybernodes against imminent or observed threats.
Additionally, the forces practiced operating while under cyberattacks affecting military communications and command and control. The war games also were a rehearsal for “how a coalition will conduct command and control of cyberspace forces at the tactical and operational levels in response to a regional crisis.”
Specific participants were not identified, but they included Pentagon and other federal officials as well as allies in what the command said were “realistic scenarios against opposing forces.”
Among the forces that participated were the Cyber National Mission Force, which is trained to defend critical infrastructure against sophisticated cyberattacks, and the Cyber Protection Force, which is tasked with defending Pentagon networks.
“The exercise took place on a specially constructed closed network designed to simulate the DOD and allied information networks and adversary networks,” the statement said. “The event also featured an expert opposing force, which takes on the role of the adversary using a range of tactics and weapons to provide a realistic training environment.”
“The coalition exercise environment was vital to generating insights into how to achieve military objectives by conducting operations in and through cyberspace,” said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, Cybercom’s director of exercises and training.
“Push the envelope, experiment, and take advantage of this opportunity by embracing controlled failure for the learning potential it has,” Adm. Rogers was quoted as telling exercise participants.
According to a press release, Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, who heads U.S. Cyber Command, wants the Pentagon to build cyberwarfare capabilities “to generate military options for senior military leaders and decision-makers.”