Naval War College wargame focuses on civ-mil response to cyber attacks

Participants discuss an evolving situation as part of the Navy-Private Sector Critical Infrastructure Wargame held at U.S. Naval War College (NWC), Newport, Rhode Island.
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U.S. Naval War College (NWC), Newport, Rhode Island welcomed to campus elected officials, business and government leaders, and military members to conduct a wargame focused on civilian cyber attacks and their effects. 

The Navy-Private Sector Critical Infrastructure Wargame brought together approximately 140 personnel including senior executives and information security officers from private industry across 14 critical infrastructure sectors to collect insights surrounding the impact on the U.S. Navy and Department of Defense that may result from cyber-related disruptions on commercial businesses. 

“Our intent was to try to better understand what the role of the Department of Defense would be in attacks against critical infrastructure,” said Jacquelyn Schneider, professor in Strategic and Operational Research and game director for the event. “Right now, national policies are a little bit vague. There is little understanding what the role of the DoD would be in the case of a significant cyber attack. We want to make it more clear.” 

The aim was to better understand the delegation of responsibilities and capabilities to defend and deter cyber threats to U.S. critical infrastructure while building relationships between key decision makers to facilitate future cyber policy responsibilities, Schneider added. 

With a focus on civilian and defense cooperation, the game may also help inform future policy. 

“Private companies are going to be the battlefield for this conflict, and are already,” said U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island, who attended the event. “Integration between the defense sector and the critical infrastructure of private entities is absolutely vital to having any success in that conflict.” 

Commercial sectors represented were from chemical, information technology, energy, financial, health care, transportation, defense and manufacturing fields. 

Simulations such as this cyber war game are valuable, according to a Rhode Island representative who took part. 

“We learn the most when we actually do exercises,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, Rhode Island, who spoke at the event. “It helps us think through some of the complexities, answers some questions, and raises awareness. These games are valuable and can definitely help because they can be predictive. Hopefully we learn what the vulnerabilities are when something does happen.” 

The game focused on several areas including federal and local governments as well as private industry. Getting a clearer picture of the role of each was one of the goals. 

“Everyone agrees it [cyber] is important, but not everyone agrees where to focus our limited resources. Results from this game will be used to understand what resources the DoD should focus on and what critical sectors could see the most disruption,” added Schneider. 

Cyber attacks on businesses need more cooperation between Department of the Navy and civilians.

“The game integrates the private sector with U.S. government and military for national cyber resilience,” said Philip Bilden, chairman of NWC Foundation Center for Cyber Security Task Force. “NWC has been at the forefront of identifying our nation’s cyber vulnerabilities as extending beyond our military into our critical infrastructure as a nation, which is predominantly in the private sector of our economy. Our financial system, power grids, transportation networks and other sectors are vulnerable to attack and disruption by state and non-state actors in cyberspace. This simulation exercise brings leaders from the private sector and our military and U.S. Government together to work through possible scenarios to improve our collective defense.” 

The game may also build more awareness help preparedness. 

“The successful outcome for this cyber wargame is that when the inevitable happens, people know how to react in a timely way,” added Whitehouse. “With any luck, we may learn a few things that can help us in Congress so we can try to help.” 

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Daniel L. Kuester

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U.S. Naval War College Graduation: June 2019

Jun. 14, 2019
10:00 a.m.
U.S. Naval War College, 686 Cushing Road, Newport, RI 02841

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