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Finland’s top cyber warfare experts in a tough place

Defence Forces C5 Agency
Publication date 29.4.2024 12.39
Press release

The Finnish Defence Forces participated in the international Locked Shields 2024 exercise held between 16 and 26 April and were among the three highest-scoring teams. The NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) has organised the largest cyber defence exercise in the world since 2010.

Locked Shields 24 is part of the 2024 training and exercise activities at the Defence Forces, and the Finnish Defence Forces C5 Agency was in charge of it. The Finnish team was set up in cooperation with the National Defence Training Association of Finland (MPK) and were among the three highest-scoring teams. The MPK plays a critical role in the training of cyber reservists and non-conscripts, which is why the Defence Forces holds its involvement and cooperation with it in particularly high regard. The cyber defence exercise provides an excellent opportunity to deepen this cooperation. The Defence Forces have participated in the Locked Shields exercise with the MPK several times, with good success. In 2022, the joint detachment of the Defence Forces and the MPK won the entire exercise. 

This year’s exercise was larger than ever, with a total of more than 3,000 participants from more than 40 countries. All the teams participating in the exercise consisted of teams of two or more countries. Finland participated in the exercise with a joint team with Poland. Poland was selected as Finland’s partner on the basis of joint preparations and because it is a strongly developing cyber operator in NATO. The priority of the Defence Forces was to learn about working in a joint international team and develop cyber defence cooperation between Finland, Poland and NATO. 

The joint team of Finland and Poland had been built to correspond to the scenario of the exercise. The participants therefore included experts from the fields of technology, intelligence, communications, international legislation and situational picture. It was possible to be successful in the exercise only by combining these functions as a working entity within the team.

“The best way to prepare for cyber threats in the global information society is through effective international cooperation. A joint team with Poland made it possible to apply national operating practices in an international field. At the same time, we learned how it is possible to develop our own operations,” said First Lieutenant Antti Katajamäki from the Finnish Defence Forces C5 Agency.

The aim of the Locked Shields exercise was to test and exercise the competence of the participating troops in observing, combating and reporting cyber attacks. The task of the exercise detachment was to protect the critical infrastructure and information systems against cyber attacks. The actual exercising was implemented through an imaginary scenario, in which all activities took place in the IT environment built for this purpose – and the opponent was extremely skilled.

The leader of the exercise, First Lieutenant Antti Katajamäki praises the reservists in the exercise as they did extremely well compared with much larger teams – thanks to good preparation and efficient implementation. 
“The truth is that cyber is part of the toolkit in modern warfare. In principle, each weak link may be a cyber risk, so it is everyone’s responsibility to be aware and in their own actions enhance cyber defence,” Katajamäki says.

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