Monday, November 24, 2014

NATO cyber exercises & regional tensions

Wapack Labs tracks cyber activities between Ukraine and Russia with the idea that that there will be lessons that we can all learn from, taking those lessons to our defenses. This piece was published by an analyst in Wapack Lab's EURASIA analysis effort. The analyst, a non-English speaker has a rough writing style but the content always offers amazing insights. 


NATO cyber exercises & regional tensions

Published 11/24/14

Annual NATO cyber exercises "Cyber Coalition 2014" attracted a lot of attention: NATO estimates global cyber crime makes a profit of $1 TRN a year - equivalent to the narcotics trade. NATO's computer servers are detecting 200 million suspicious cyber events every single day, the alliance has revealed. On average the military organisation is the victim of five major cyber attacks each week and that has increased "significantly" since Russian aggression in Ukraine started.
NATO carried out its biggest ever cyber security exercise involving hundreds of computer analysts. The three-day event, taking in 28 nations, was held on a former Soviet base in the city of Tartu, close to the Russian border. Estonia, the host nation, was attacked by Russian hackers in 2007. Banking systems, newspaper production and national websites were all affected. Since then the country has invested heavily in cyber capability and is now one of the leading nations in NATO. Estonia's president Toomas Hendrik told Sky News his country had notice a surge in attacks since Russian aggression increased in Ukraine. He also revealed there had been a recent major attack on the country, but declined to reveal specifics.

The three-day cyber defence exercise Cyber Coalition 2014 tested the Alliance’s ability to defend its networks from the various challenges. It involved over 670 technical, government and cyber experts operating from dozens of locations from across the Alliance and partner nations. For the first time, representatives from academia and industry had been invited as observers.

Financial Times in the article “Nato holds largest cyber war games” gives the idea of exercises and connection to Russian-Ukrainian military conflict:

From barracks in Tartu, a team of around 100 soldiers and intelligence officials on Monday began throwing sophisticated technical attacks at NATO teams across Europe and North America: Troops’ android phones were hacked after a downloadable app turned out be hiding sophisticated malware; an imaginary supplier of military equipment was found to have had its own manufacturing process compromised, with security loopholes built into its computer chips; a Nato emergency response team was flown to Greece after one scenario in which the attackers succeeded in seizing control of the systems running Nato’s Awacs surveillance aircraft – one of the alliance’s most prized possessions.

In a particularly lurid cyber storyline, a senior NATO officer had his family kidnapped and was then blackmailed into stealing huge amounts of classified data from the alliance’s secure military networks.

“Eventually,” said Luc Dandurand, deputy director of the exercise, “[the participants] work out that all these attacks are coming from a single entity – it’s all from one nation state.”  Officially, the attacker was meant to be disrupting a Nato mission in a fictitious, war-torn state in the Horn of Africa. In reality, the scenario was a thinly disguised version of the threats confronting the alliance as a result of the crisis in Ukraine. Russia, though never mentioned, loomed large.  In one simulated attack, for example, the classified communications of the general in charge of the fictitious Nato deployment were hacked. The hackers then leaked the information to a global newspaper, which promptly published the Nato military chief’s private declaration that the war was unwinnable.

That was eerily reminiscent of an episode in Kiev in February when a candid conversation between US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland and Washington’s ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, was secretly recorded and leaked to the press.
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