ACSC to Participate in FEMA and DHS National Level Cyber Exercise

Today the ACSC will be onsite for the NLE 2020 Cyber Workshop at the Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security (Northeastern University, Burlington, MA). The focus of this National Level Exercise will be upon cyber preparedness in the public and private sectors, as the ACSC will explore how to leverage the government’s capacity to conduct critical infrastructure exercises, using those learnings to better inform and drive community level responses to large scale cyber attacks and changes in the threat environment.

The NLE 2020 Cyber Workshop is a collaborative effort between FEMA’s National Exercise Division (NED) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The workshop will provide information and resources related to improving the nation’s cyber posture. National preparedness activities will explore a series of “nation-state threats” and our ability to effectively respond to national security emergencies.

The exercise is driven by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber Storm biennial exercise series, providing the framework for the most extensive government-sponsored cybersecurity exercise of its kind. The exercise series was mandated by Congress, and is administered by FEMA. The National Exercise Program is a two-year cycle of exercises across the nation that examine and validate capabilities in all preparedness mission areas.

By aligning with the FEMA/DHS Cyber Workshop, last year’s Army National Guard Cyber Yankee event and national level exercises like them, the Advanced Cyber Security Center is bringing a private-sector perspective to how we respond as a nation to large scale cyber attacks. More importantly, we’re exploring how to respond better as a community to identify behavior that could reflect a new attack.

The ACSC is participating in the Cyber Workshop to bring learnings from the event back into our own collaborative defense simulations for New England organizations. As the ACSC establishes our Collaborative Defense Program, it’s important to extend this exercise capability to the community - conducting the same sort of exercises that the government does for natural disasters to strengthen the community-level response to sophisticated cyber threats. The private sector must gain a stronger idea of its role and responsibility to participate in response to large-scale threats, learn to identify the indicators and recognize behavior that could be driving a new large scale attack - and how to work collaboratively to address those threats and reduce the duplication of effort that diminishes the efficiency of response.

From a government perspective, the NLE 2020 Cyber Workshop exercise will examine organizations’ capability to prepare for, protect from, respond to cyber attacks’ potential effects and learn about interagency coordination of incident response in accordance with national level policy and procedures. The event examines means and processes through which to share sensitive information across boundaries and sectors without compromising proprietary or national security interests - including validation of information sharing relationships and communications paths. Each Cyber Storm builds on lessons learned from previous real world incidents, ensuring that participants face more sophisticated and challenging exercises every two years. Here at the ACSC, we hope to extend those benefits to the New England business community working in partnership with our local government agency representatives.

The ACSC is honored to take part in the NLE 2020 Cyber Workshop, supporting the nation’s cornerstone exercise for validating progress toward achieving national preparedness. Together, we’re preparing to respond to and recover from catastrophic cybersecurity incidents.