NATO’s flagship cyber defence exercise kicks off in Estonia


Cyber Coalition 21, one of the world’s largest annual exercises in cyber defence, starts on Monday (29 November 2021), and will run through Friday. Cyber defenders from all NATO Allies, as well as partners Finland, Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland, are taking part, alongside participants from industry and academia. Overall, some 1,000 people will train in this year’s event, which is taking place in Tallinn, Estonia, as well as remotely, from national capitals and other locations.

The exercise tests and trains cyber experts in their ability to defend NATO and national networks. From defending against malware, through hybrid attacks involving social media, to hacks on mobile devices, the exercise has a set of challenging, realistic scenarios. This year’s scenarios include a cyber attack on gas supply pipelines; a cyber attack disrupting the deployment of troops and logistics; and a pandemic-related ransomware attack, where vaccine data is stolen and vaccination programmes are compromised.

The players do not compete, but collaborate, exchanging first-hand information, experience and best practices in handling cyber incidents. By working together, the individual participants, as well as their organisations, nations and NATO, enhance their cyber resilience.

For NATO, Cyber Coalition 21 is a means to improve the organisation’s own IT network protections and fine-tune its mechanisms for real-time information exchange with Allies and partners. The exercise is also an important test of the organisation’s ability to conduct operations in cyber space, and to deter and defend against threats in the cyber domain.

For the first time, Cyber Coalition 21 is taking place in the Cyber Range in Tallinn, a platform for realistic, virtual cyber exercises operated by the Estonian Defence Forces.

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