WASHINGTON — European military and staff planners from Belgium to Bulgaria gathered this week in Austria to take part in Cyber Phalanx 2018. The exercise, which involved 27 nations, aimed to strengthen European readiness against cyberattacks, with a special focus on “cyber defense decision-making and planning processes,” according to the European Defense Agency announcement.
The heads of Britain and Germany’s domestic intelligence agencies joined European Union officials to warn of an expanded use of cyber to undermine democratic processes by Russia. Countries like Finland have identified cyber espionage as a top threat to the survival of national technology companies.
While the EU has organized little in the way of cyber exercises, the Cyber Phalanx exercise won’t be the first among European allies to focus on cyber readiness and training.
NATO has taken the lead in preparing member nations for cyber threats, organizing exercises like Crossed Swords for members to gain experience with cyber-kinetic operations involving drones and 5G networks.
The alliance also recently declared success at its Locked Shields exercise after NATO cyber specialists defended a theoretical country’s electric power grid, communication networks and other critical infrastructure from thousands of cyberattacks.
NATO has also led the EU in discussions of a response to a cyberattack, even raising the possibility of treating a digital transgression as an act of war.
Now, the issue may be warranting more attention from European organizations. Hosted by the EDA and the Multinational Capability Development Campaign (MCDC), Cyber Phalanx seeks to help the participants from various nations familiarize themselves with existing European online structures and their respective roles as cyber stakeholders.
As governments around the world contemplate how to recognize the next threat to their networks, the exercises in Austria also will hopefully “increase interoperability” among experts and governments in Europe.
Planners will also be prepared to address previously overlooked aspects of cyberwarfare, such as fake news or social media that might be used to compromise planning or execution.
As the pilot Cyber Phalanx, the exercises will draw on the feedback received from participants, trainers and organizers to adapt the course and improve the concept for future iterations. The exercises concluded June 8, with lessons learned incorporated into the training curriculum for future European cyber experts.
Andrew is a student in the class of 2020 at the University of Notre Dame.