Giant cyber wargame with 'dark scenario' of power cuts, ransomware and drones reaches its climax

More than 700 security experts from government agencies, banks, cloud companies, battle fictional cyber-foes.

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Blackouts are one element of the cyber defence excercise scenario

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than 700 security experts are battling a fictional cyber crisis featuring power cuts, drones and ransomware as part of the European Union's biggest cyber defence exercise to date.

Cyber Europe 2016 kicked off back in April, as since then has been simulating the build up to a major cyber security crisis with a series of fictional attacks on European digital networks, culminating in this week's finale, where security industry experts from more than 300 organisations work together "to ensure business continuity and, ultimately, to safeguard the European Digital Single Market."

"Computer security attacks are increasingly used to perform industrial reconnaissance, lead disinformation campaigns, manipulate stock markets, leak sensitive information, tamper with customer data, sabotage critical infrastructures," warns the scenario.

The cyber wargame involves more than 700 experts across 30 countries from organisations such as governmental Computer Security Incident Response Teams, cybersecurity agencies, plus cloud service providers, IT security companies, banks, energy companies and other critical infrastructure operators, and is organised by the EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA).

It said the exercise "pictures a very dark scenario" inspired by events such as the hacker-generated blackout in Ukraine in 2015 and the dependence on technologies manufactured outside of the EU.

ENISA said the exercise features the Internet of Things, drones, cloud computing, innovative exfiltration vectors, mobile malware and ransomware. For the first time, it said, a fully fledged story was developed with actors, media coverage, simulated companies and social media, so as to make the scenario as realistic as possible to those participating.

Udo Helmbrecht, executive director of ENISA, said: "We are better prepared than we were, but that does not mean we have done enough and the work must continue. Cyber-attacks are more sophisticated than before. Cybersecurity is not a state, it is a process."

The outcomes of Cyber Europe 2016 will be analysed by ENISA and the member states, and detailed lessons learned will be shared with the participants to the exercise. The next Cyber Europe exercise will follow in 2018, with smaller scale exercises planned in between.

Because cyber defence is seen as an pressing international issue there are now a number of these large-scale exercises: NATO runs 'Locked Shields', which involves around 550 people across 26 nationalities, and is based in Tallinn. The US runs the 'Cyber Guard' event every year, which this year saw around 1,000 players dealing with a fictional attack on an oil refinery, power grids, and ports.

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