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UK forces lead live-fire cyber war exercise

The seven-day Defence Cyber Marvel 2 exercise put cyber responders from 11 countries through their paces

More than 750 cyber security specialists from around the world have participated in one of the largest-ever live-fire cyber war exercises, which saw them respond to a series of simulated cyber threats that mirror tactics deployed by Russia in its war on Ukraine, including attacks on critical networks, industrial control systems and unmanned robotic systems.

The Defence Cyber Marvel 2 (DCM2) war game exercise was led by British Army specialists, and brought together 750 experts from 11 countries, including Ghana, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Oman, Ukraine and the US. They were put through their paces at a joint in-person virtual event hosted in Estonian capital Tallinn, which is home to Nato’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDoE).

The UK contingent included 900 personnel drawn from the Army, the Royal Navy, and the RAF.

The seven-day competition, which concluded last week, saw participants judged on the effectiveness and speed of their response, and how quickly they were able to identify and adapt to new threats. The event also offered participants the opportunity to share learnings and best practice with their counterparts from other countries.

“The modern battlefield is evolving at an unprecedented pace; it is therefore vital that our personnel are trained to adapt quickly in this crucial domain and can recognise cyber threats with capability and speed,” said defence secretary Ben Wallace.

Tom Copinger-Symes, deputy commander of UK Strategic Command, added: “Events like Defence Cyber Marvel showcase the talent we already have in defence. They get to exercise and learn with folk from a vast array of different nations, backgrounds and specialisations – all united by a common purpose – to hone their skills to a fine edge and protect our people, our prosperity and our principles.

“At UK Strategic Command we’re committed to finding and nurturing individuals with those skills, especially those who are about to finish their studies and are eager for a unique challenge on the front-line of UK’s defence.”

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The event was developed by the Army Cyber Association, a volunteer-run group formed by Royal Signals officers prior to the 2020 formation of the 13th Signal Regiment.

Army Cyber Association chair Ian Hargreaves said: “Our focus has always been talent identification, recognition and development with a big wraparound of innovation. We must innovate to stay ahead of those that would wish us harm, and Defence Cyber Marvel 2 is the next evolution of our pioneering collective education.

“The exercise has ensured that all those taking part understand the potential and risks that cyber space provides and gave them the opportunity to experiment and develop their cyber skills,” he said. “It was designed to stretch the most experienced, battle-hardened cyber specialists in UK defence.”

Besides the revival of the 13th Signals, which previously existed under various guises between the Second World War and the mid-1990s, the MoD has been pouring resources into addressing the threat to the UK’s interests from the possibility of an all-out cyber war, particularly one that may yet develop should the Ukraine conflict escalate.

Last year it introduced a number of platforms and services from Immersive Labs designed to shore up its defensive security and workforce capabilities, enhance the quality of its cyber war games, and secure its software development lifecycle.

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