EDINBURGH, Ind. – More than 350 Soldiers, Airmen and civilians from 42 states converged at Camp Atterbury March 9-20, for the 2015 Cyber Shield Exercise with a focus on developing Industrial Control Systems/Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition defense scenarios.
The exercise is part of the National Guard’s ongoing efforts to improve Guard readiness to respond to real-world cyber incidents. During the first week, Soldiers and Airmen received hands-on training in a kinetic cyber city directed by the SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security Institute, the largest source for information security training and certification in the world. It develops, maintains, and makes available the largest collection of research documents and provides intensive, immersion training.
“The idea of cyber city is to train operators and essentially our warriors on how to defend critical infrastructures in cyber space, said Ed Skoudis, SANS Institute Instructor.”
It is a physical city, 6 feet by 8 feet in size, Skoudis described. “There is everything from working lights, tiny buildings, hospital, to working traffic lights. What makes it even more interesting is that it is equipped with its own working power grid and mini industrial control systems.”
Soldiers and Airmen were given accesses to the systems and received mock scenarios of cyber-attacks through the cyber city and asked to react to possible threats by identifying the adversaries in the environment and exposing tracks of information.
“The mission they received this week was a mock cyber-attack on the water reservoir, it simulates manipulating machines that are used to sense water quality,” Skaoudis said. “Even though the water quality is fine, cyber terrorists are trying to alter the system making the operators think they need to dump chemicals into the water making the public worry that the water has been contaminated, when in fact nothing has occurred.”
As the Computer Network Defense teams worked through issues to solve technical challenges, SANS Instructors were by their side making sure operations were well a coordinated. “We are seeing as they work through these missions, leadership, assigning different tasks to the team. That is fantastic, and really strong technical people on the team are sharing their knowledge and ideas with others. That’s when it works best and I love seeing that,” Skoudis said.”
The class was so well received that 24 teams faced off against adversaries attacking the mock city demonstrating advanced skills, which lead to the Final Four face-off on Saturday, March 14. The final four teams included teams from Oregon, Idaho, Maine, Utah, Virgin Islands and Illinois.
By battling and eradicating malicious invaders of computers and related industrial control systems inside a city, National Guard soldiers and Airmen were able to demonstrate that critical infrastructures could resume normal operations and keep our country safe.
While all the teams learned and improved their cyber security skills and are more prepared to respond to an actual cyber-attack from an adversary, the combined team of Oregon and Idaho took home the trophy.
He also noted that over the last 10 years he has seen a huge change in the cyber field, with the increasing knowledge of the military’s capabilities.
The Cyber City by the SANS Institute was a new addition to this year’s Cyber Shield exercise. National Guard Senior Cyber Advisor, Col. Heather Meeds said the National Guard was looking for something to increase the training value and hopes it is a future tool for Commanders to visually see the effects cyber incidents can cause.
“It’s realistic, they get into it, it looks like something you would do if the governor called on something that could actually happen within a state and they may be called upon to assist,” Meeds said.
Last year the Cyber Shield exercise focused the Guard’s Computer Network Defense Teams on defending GUARDNet, which provides a critical link for command and control of the National Guard systems. This year the exercise was able to focus more on the assistance it can provide to federal and state governments with projects like CyberCity. The new training added visual value to see the impact it can pose on actual infrastructure that could possibly be the next mission the National Guard is called to respond.