On Friday the North-Atlantic Council, the principal decision making body within NATO, approved a capability package, with which an investment will be made in the development of the cyber range capability located in Estonia.
The investment will significantly raise the technical capability of the cyber range and the ability to simulate and automate the environments required for cyber training and exercises. In addition, the investment by NATO will facilitate increase in number of teams taking part of exercises and will allow executing several different training and exercise events at the same time.
Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso stated that over the past few years Estonia has been a strong advocate when it comes to cyber defence related topics within NATO, and we have also made a substantial contribution to developing NATO cyber defence exercises and training capabilities.
“In 2007, Estonia was the first country in the world to suffer a state sponsored cyber-attack by Russia. There is a saying: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” – this is clearly true in the field of cyber warfare," said Hanso. “The cyber field has clearly become Estonia's niche capability and internationally recognised advantage. The decision by NATO to invest into the development of cyber range capability is yet another sign of trust and Estonia’s high level of cyber defence.”
“Cyber defence is a field in which the size of the state is not a deciding factor; even a small state may be equal to large states in this field. Estonia is one of the leading promoters of cyber defence within NATO, and through this significant investment by NATO we will further increase our visibility and strength in this field,” said Hanso.
Estonia has been developing a cyber range capability 2011; at the 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, the decision was made to establish the NATO Cyber Range based on Estonian capability. The current financing decision is a part of the implementation process for the NATO Cyber Range Capability.
Kusti Salm, Director of the Defence Industry and Innovation Department at the Ministry of Defence and the project manager of the NATO Cyber Range development project, said that the investment by NATO will significantly raise Estonia’s technical capability for carrying out cyber defence training exercises and training.
“The result of the investment makes it possible to organise even bigger and more complex NATO cyber defence exercises, training and also the testing of complex IT systems in Estonia,” said Salm. “It is important for us that NATO military personnel and cyber defence experts will now begin to use the cyber range capability much more often."
The NATO Cyber Range Capability is used for cyber defence training exercises, training and testing related activities. In essence it is a polygon, in which it is possible to practice cyber-attacks and test the resistance of IT systems without hampering the live-systems.
The cyber range is a powerful ICT system with a unique set of characteristics, the hardware and software of which imitates actual computer networks and the data traffic therein. The Estonian cyber range is located in the facilities of the Estonian Staff and Signal Battalion and the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence. The cyber range capability can also be securely accessed remotely all around the world.
Two of the world’s largest international cyber defence exercises are carried out in the Estonian cyber range capability – Locked Shields, organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, and the largest NATO cyber defence exercise Cyber Coalition. Also taking place in the Estonian cyber range are the Cyber Olympics, held in cooperation between the Ministry of Defence and the Estonian Information Technology College, and a number of different cyber defence training programmes.