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US Cyber Flag exercise bolsters Finland-Sweden joint team’s cyber defence skills

Defence Forces C5 Agency
Publication date 20.5.2024 7.51
Press release

The Finnish Defence Forces participated together with the Swedish Armed Forces in the top-tier multinational Cyber Defence Exercise Cyber Flag 24-1 from 12 to 18 May. The exercise was organized by United States Cyber Command in Joint Base Suffolk, Virginia. In addition to training US cyber protection teams, cyber operators from 18 NATO allies and partners trained their skills and improved their knowledge in detecting cyber threats and identifying solutions to protect networks.

The Finnish and Swedish cyber defence experts formed a composite cyber protection team with the mission to defend critical infrastructure against cyber threats in a simulated environment. For both Finland’s and Sweden’s participants this was a unique opportunity to train together side by side in a single team. The training scenario enabled experts to repel versatile and skilled cyber threats in a large-scale IT environment. The exercise challenged the composite team to adapt and to stay on top of a rapidly changing threat situation. In addition to detecting cyber threats against critical infrastructure, an essential task was reporting on the situation and giving recommendations in non-technical terms to higher command and keeping mission-essential systems running despite of ongoing malicious cyber activities.

- Our overarching goal was to train the whole spectrum of cyber defence activities in a demanding scenario. To effectively counter cyber threats and keep mission-essential systems running it was crucial to combine all functions from detecting threats on a very technical level to communicating risks and recommendations to the senior level. Acting as one entity is a cornerstone for success. All members of our composite team demonstrated expertise and willingness to successfully complete our mission to get the best outcome from the training, said Major (eng.) Mikko Tuomi, Finnish national lead in the exercise.

Improving cooperation in order to respond to the increased threats of today’s world

Information sharing was one of the key objectives of the exercise to conduct threat-driven defensive cyberspace operations. Defending teams were trained to receive and utilize threat information. To enhance threat hunt activities across all participating countries, teams were encouraged to share their findings about malicious cyber activities to other teams.

Both Finland and Sweden have recently signed a letter of intent on advanced cyber partnership with the United States aimed at promoting a combined national defence strategy to counter cyber threats. Training in the highest quality cyber events like Exercise Cyber Flag is part of strengthening partnerships.

The Swedish Armed Forces Assistant Chief of Staff Cyber Defence, Colonel Thomas Höglund and the Commanding officer of Cyber Division from the Finnish Defence Forces C5 Agency, Lieutenant Colonel Tommi Laari emphasized the importance of international cooperation in cyber defence.

- We are very glad to be able to participate in such a high-level exercise in a joint team with Finland. In addition to the exercise injects that challenge our team, Cyber Flag also enables us to strengthen our long partnership with Finland, now both as allies in NATO, as well as gives us the opportunity to advance our collaboration and cooperation with the US Cyber Command and increase our interoperability with the US in the cyber domain, told Colonel Höglund.

- We want the training to be as realistic as possible and we want to do it together with our key partners. International cooperation is vital in the global operating environment, added Lieutenant Colonel Laari.

The Finnish Defence Forces C5 Agency was in charge of Finland’s participation. In addition to C5 Agency cyber experts, Finnish participation consisted of experts from the Army, Navy and Defence Research Agency.