The largest cyber exercise you’ve never heard of

The largest cyber exercise you’ve never heard of

For years, the first time the Department of Defense’s cyber forces faced high-end digital attacks was not in practice or in a classroom, but in actual operations.

For the cyber teams that focused on offense, a playbook developed from years of National Security Agency operations guided their work. But on the defensive side, standards and processes needed to be created from scratch meaning, in part, there was a lack of uniformity and little tradecraft to follow.

Because cyber leaders had focused on staffing, training opportunities for defensive cyber operators had been sparse.

To help solve that problem, the Department of Defense is expected to award a contract worth roughly $1 billion later this year for a global cyber training environment. But in the meantime, some units across the joint force have gone so far as to create their own small-scale training events and exercises to keep their forces’ skill sets sharp.

Perhaps the best example of these efforts are the 567th Cyberspace Operations Group’s “Hunt Event,” which has quickly grown to become one of the largest cyber exercises across the department. The bi-monthly exercise pits teams against each other in a competition for the coveted Goblet of Cyber trophy and bragging rights.

The group aims to better train defensive hunters, improve defensive tactics, techniques and procedures and develop defensive tradecraft.

“The point of this was that we didn’t really have a good range space to play on that had an active and live adversary so we could, in theory, replay traffic and we could go in and generate some easy kill, low hanging fruit signatures for detection,” Capt. Reid Hottel, training flight commander at the 837th Cyber Operations Squadron, told Fifth Domain.

“If we are supposed to be the primary counter to advanced persistent threats, the way that we were training was not like how we were fighting.”

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