International cyber defence exercise tests cyber protection teams

A military officer working on a desktop computer.
Master Corporal M. Chopov (35 Signals Regiment) during Exercise CYBER SPARTAN II. Photo : 2 Div PA

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By 2nd Lieutenant Terrilyn McLaren

Public Affairs, 2nd Canadian Division and Joint Task Force (East) Headquarters

Five Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members from units in Quebec and Ontario participated in Exercise CYBER SPARTAN II, hosted by the British Army in early December.

The exercise was held on a military airfield in Wiltshire, England. It tested the tactical and operational levels of Cyber Protection Teams (CPT) in the context of a mechanised infantry brigade.

The scenario comprised the build-up and deployment to a NATO country experiencing growing hostilities with a bordering country. The CPT’s role in this scenario was to conduct cyber defence operations to ensure the brigade could operate freely within the cyber space.

Captain J. A. Holsworth, 2nd Canadian Divison Support Group Signals Squadron, was the battle captain for one of the 12 CPT. His team included the five CAF members, and five other members assigned by the exercise director. Other teams came from the U.S. military, the Royal Navy (RN), the Royal Engineers (RE) and from various Royal Signals Units.

The CPT were faced with a series of cyber-attack scenarios escalating in difficulty. This was a practical evaluation of their technical and operational skills. Capt Holsworth remarked that the “virtual environment was representative of the reality of many networks that could be used in this context [and] the IT experience of CAF members met the exact needs of the cyber defensive team.”

Ex CYBER SPARTAN II tested the CPT with a scoring rating based on cyber incidence response, mission interaction, and established processes and tools. Ultimately, the British Army’s team won the competition.

Capt Holsworth hopes to field an entirely Canadian team for the next exercise already in consideration. He compares CPT to sports teams; they have “different positions requiring specific skills”, team cohesion is imperative to their success, and “team members need to know each other, and react quickly” in an operational capacity.

The Canadian participation in this exercise was greatly valued, and all five CAF members learned a great deal from cyber defence and military operational perspectives.

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