Brian Jackson - Fotolia

UK hosts international cyber attack response test

The UK has hosted an exercise to test how investigators and prosecutors across Europe and the US would work together in the event of a complex international cyber criminal incident

The UK has hosted a simulated cyber attack on a fictitious global petrol company to test international responses to serious cyber crime.

Cyber crime specialists from across Europe and the US took part in the week-long Exercise Silver Shadow, which kicked off on 30 November 2015 at the Cabinet Office’s Emergency Planning College in North Yorkshire, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The exercise, run by the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) and funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, saw officers from eight countries come together to assess their collective response to a simulated cyber attack.

The aim was to test how investigators and prosecutors would work together in the event of a complex criminal incident spanning several different legal jurisdictions to ensure an effective response to future cyber crime attacks.
The NCA said the exercise was also an opportunity to develop stronger operational partnerships between investigation teams and prosecutors.

The exercise was conducted using a specialist Serco service called cybX that prepares both private and public sector organisations to prevent and respond to serious cyber attacks.
The countries involved were Bulgaria, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine, the UK and the US, represented by the FBI.

The NCA said a representative from Europol’s Joint Cyber Action Taskforce (J-CAT) also took part. J-CAT, launched on 1 September 2014, is made up of cyber liaison officers from EU states, non-EU law enforcement partners and EC3, and is designed to drive intelligence-led, co-ordinated actions against key cyber crime threats and top targets.

Exercise Silver Shadow follows a pilot event, Exercise Silver Pilot, which was held in October to test and develop the interoperability between the UK’s cyber crime units, notably the NCCU and cyber units within the Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCUs), Police Scotland and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
NCCU director Jamie Saunders said: “Together, Silver Pilot and Silver Shadow form an important part of the NCCU’s efforts to prepare the UK response – at regional, national and international levels – to the ever-changing cyber crime threat.
“Cyber crime is, by its very nature, international, with many of the criminals and the technical infrastructure they rely on based overseas, and yet its impact is felt by real people and real businesses in communities across the UK.
“This means that our response has to be capable of linking police colleagues dealing with victims at a local level with law enforcement colleagues in other countries investigating and prosecuting those who may be responsible,” he said.

For this reason, Saunders said the NCCU has put strong international partnerships at the heart of its efforts to combat the most serious cyber crime threats to the UK.

“We have lots of learning to take away, but through this exercise we have demonstrated that, just as the criminals can work across national borders, so can law enforcement,” he said.
Richard Preece, Serco’s director of cybX, said: “It’s been a privilege to support members of the UK and international law enforcement community. Every day we hear about another cyber attack; cybX offers organisations a way to ensure their people are properly prepared. 

“It’s one thing to invest in the best technology, but organisations must also invest in developing their people and test their capabilities. Serco’s training puts employees from the server room to the boardroom through their paces, enabling organisations to better prepare for the inevitable cyber attack,” he said. 

Read more on Hackers and cybercrime prevention