The anatomy of cyber security exercises

In its new report, the EU’s ‘cyber-security agency’ ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency) examines 85 national and international cyber-exercises between 2002 and 2012.

Information on national and multinational cyber-exercises was gathered worldwide and analysed in this report. We found that a total of 22 European countries were conducting national cyber-security exercises during the last years.

The key findings include:

  • Cyber-exercises have increased in numbers recent years; 71% occurred 2010-2012. The reasons are the overall policy context that boosts cyber-exercises, an increased emphasis by EU Member States thereupon, and the increasing threat of cross border cyber incidents and attacks.
  • Cyber-security and cyber crisis cooperation efforts are receiving ever more attention.
  • There is an essential need to intensify public-private cooperation on cyber-exercises, as the ownership of most of the critical information infrastructures lies in private hands.
  • Proper planning, monitoring and evaluation methods are crucial for effective cyber-exercises.

Some statistical features show that:

  • 64% of the multinational exercises involved more than 10 countries, 13% involved 6-10 countries and 13% involved 3-5 countries.
  • In 57% of the exercises both the public and private sector participated, while 41% involved only the public sector.
  • Two-thirds of the analysed exercises were national exercises and one-third was multinational exercises. This indicates a tendency for international cooperation, although national security matters usually are domestic concerns.
  • Exercises also generated media footprint for 74% of them, creating national cyber-security awareness.

The seven key recommendations of the report are:

  • Establish a more integrated global cyber exercise community
  • Ensure exchange of good practices on cyber-exercises, including public-private cooperation
  • Support development of exercise management tools for better exercise planning, execution and evaluation
  • Conduct more complex cyber-exercises at inter-sectorial, international and European levels
  • Exercises should be included in the lifecycle of national cyber crisis contingency plans
  • Promote the good practices for national exercises, and initiate a step-by-step methodology for cross-border cyber-exercises
  • Develop feedback mechanisms for ensuring that lessons learned from cyber-exercises.

The Executive Director of ENISA, Professor Udo Helmbrecht, remarked: “The ENISA study shows that a broad consensus exists for cyber-exercises being an essential instrument to assess the preparedness of a community against cyber crises, and to enhance the responsiveness of stakeholders against critical information infrastructure incidents. Based on the report results we will see a growing number of multinational exercises, like our recent Cyber Europe 2012, involving also the private sector.”

For an interview with Professor Udo Helmbrecht check out the September issue of (IN)SECURE Magazine.

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