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Pan-Euro cyber security exercise 'too focused' on DDoS

Successful stress test though

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Organisers are hailing the first pan-European cyber security exercise as a successful ’cyber stress test’ of key internet infrastructure systems.

Cyber Europe 2010 brought together 150 information experts from 70 public bodies in 22 countries around Europe on 4 November to run an exercise in involving 320 simulated cyber-security incidents.

The security incidents simulated involved attempts by hackers to knock critical online services offline or to degrade overall internet availability. Blue team participants included Computer Emergency Response Teams and regulators pitted against a red team of "hackers" in much the same scenario as earlier US cyberwar exercises, such as Cyber Storm.

Interim findings and recommendations from the exercise, released on Wednesday, said the exercise was a big step "towards building trust at pan-European level" while noting that more co-operation and a greater exchange of ideas is still needed.

Differences in how incidents are handled in different member states led to communication problems, with some participants struggling to identify the right person to contact in other countries. Updating existing contact directories could help this process.

"There is a lack of pan-European preparedness measures to test," organisers concluded. "This reflects the fact that many member states are still refining their national approaches."

Participants want future re-runs to be more complex and to span more than just a single day exercise. They also agreed to get the private sector more involved in future exercises.

Criticised of the European cyber warfare simulation, such as security consultant Bruce Hallas, have faulted the exercise as too focussed on dealing with distributed denial of service attacks rather than more subtle hacking attacks, perhaps involving attempted system compromise or aimed at stealing confidential information.

However, European Union information security organisation ENISA hailed the exercise as a big success. Dr Udo Helmbrecht, ENISA's executive director, commented that Cyber Europe 2010 "fully met its objectives to test Europe’s readiness to face online threats to essential critical infrastructure used by citizens, governments and businesses".

"We will work closely with member states to identify and implement the lessons learnt from this exercise. We also encourage member states to continue their efforts in the area of exercises, both at national and pan European levels."

A thorough analysis of the status reports and logs from the exercise is yet to take place and will lead to more detailed conclusions, due to be unveiled early next year.

In a statement prompted by our questions on whether the UK planed to run dedicated national exercises, as suggested by ENISA following the conclusion of the simulated cyberwar project, a Cabinet Office spokesman said it would continue to participate in international exercises with its counterparts in the EU and US.

The statement also hinted at a significant new cyberwar exercise planned for next year, without giving away any details.

"The UK has a series of national cyber security related exercises, such as the White Noise exercise with the telecoms industry in 2009, and we build cyber security into other relevant civil contingencies exercises," the statement said.

"In addition, we are active participants in international and European facilitated events such as the recent Pan-European exercise and the US Cyber Storm III Exercise."

"We are currently planning a further more significant exercise for 2011 as part of the new National Cyber Security Programme." ®

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