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NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence In Estonia

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NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence In Estonia

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Written by Colonel A. Marinin; Originally appeared at Foreign Military Review 2020 #10, translated by Mona Lita exclusively for SouthFront

Seven member states of the Alliance (Germany, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Estonia) and NATO’s Strategic Reform Command signed documents in May 2008 establishing a Cooperative Cyber ​​Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Tallinn, Estonia. The importance of this DCOE has grown significantly since the Alliance declared cyberspace, along with air, land and sea, as a new area of ​​operations at the 2016 Warsaw Summit.

It should be noted that NATO member countries can become members of the center after signing a memorandum of understanding that defines the issues of funding and allocation of personnel. The DCOE can also cooperate with non-bloc states, research institutes and enterprises as sponsors.

NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence In Estonia

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Currently, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Great Britain, USA, Greece, Turkey, Belgium, and from non-NATO countries – Austria, Sweden and Finland are participating in the work of the Center. Bulgaria, Norway and Romania plan to join this structure.

The following main tasks of the center are defined:

  • research and development of new ways of protecting information, including the identification of harmful effects on the information systems of the participating countries, the assessment of the damage caused, the restoration of their performance, as well as the timely adoption of measures to prevent cyber attacks
  • legal support of NATO activities in the field of cyber defense
  • study, generalization and dissemination of experience in the field of information security
  • educational and methodological work and training of specialists in the field of protection and security of information of the member countries

The center pays special attention to research in the cybersphere, the main directions of which are:

  • -development of concepts and strategies for ensuring security in cyberspace, as well as concepts for conducting cyber operations (offensive, defensive, operational) both within NATO and in individual member countries
  • development of technical solutions to ensure the security of digital computing systems of the alliance and member countries, detection and elimination of the consequences of cyber attacks, development of methods for determining an intrusion from the outside
  • cyber risk assessment, modeling and conducting cyber defense exercises and drills

In 2013, the center published a collection of expert opinions and rules on actions in cyberspace “The Tallinn Cyber ​​Warfare Guide”, and in 2017, an expanded version of it, which analyzed the norms of international law in relation to cybercrime.

The CCDCOE is a research and training center that provides education, research and development in the field of cyber defense, and also serves as a platform for exercises and training, including the alliance’s annual exercises in this area.

So, in April 2019, the large-scale exercises “Closed Shields” (held since 2010) were attended by the Defense Forces of Estonia, Finland and Sweden, the armed forces of Great Britain, the command of US forces in Europe (total representatives of 22 countries), as well as specialists from the Tallinn technical university. At the events, the issues of repelling attacks by hackers on modern infrastructure were worked out, strategic, legal and media aspects of the state’s cyber defense were considered. These maneuvers were aimed at generalizing and systematizing military, industrial and scientific expertise in this area, and they were based on a developed realistic geopolitical scenario.

In December 2019, the Estonian city of Tartu hosted the Cyber ​​Coalition NATO cyber defense exercise – one of the largest in the world. They were attended by about 900 people from 28 countries of the alliance and several partner countries, who are carrying out NATO and national cyber networks security checks, procedures for exchanging information between NATO and national centers, and conducting military operations in cyberspace. In addition, issues related to the assessment of the damage inflicted and the search for effective ways to restore the disabled information and control systems were worked out within the framework of these maneuvers. At the same time, the main attention was paid to the adoption of priority measures to prevent unauthorized entry into closed networks, as well as the preparation of response actions in cyberspace.

To work out the training questions, the “cyber polygon” was used – a hardware and software complex for creating a virtual space in which it is possible to simulate various incidents in the information networks of coalition governing bodies, created on the basis of the DCOE in Tallinn.
Specialists from Ukraine, Georgia and Japan were also involved in these events.

In addition to the exercises, annual International Conferences on Cybersecurity, on the use of Cyberspace in the Spheres of Politics, Law and Engineering are held with the support of the Center.

Despite the declared defensive nature of the activity of this DCOE, a number of foreign experts believe that its main task is to disable the computer networks of critical facilities and infrastructure in Russia in order to disrupt the functioning of government systems, financial institutions, enterprises, power plants, railway stations and airports.

Thus, the NATO Cyber ​​Defense Center of Excellence is established to research and develop new ways to protect information, develop cyberspace security concepts and strategies, and conduct offensive and defensive cyber operations.

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