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DHS Launches Cyber Attack Exercise

Cyber Storm III, the largest simulated cyber attack to date, aims to test a new national cyber response plan and stretch the limits of collaborative cybersecurity.

Strategic Security Survey: Global Threat, Local Pain
Strategic Security Survey: Global Threat, Local Pain
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For three or four days this week, the Internet will come under a virtual attack from an unknown adversary, and it will be up to the government and private sector's coordinated efforts to root out the cause and work together to keep systems up and running -- at least within the simulated confines of the Department of Homeland Security's Cyber Storm III exercise, which begins Tuesday.

The Cyber Storm series of exercises simulates large cyber attacks on critical infrastructure and government IT assets in order to test the government's preparedness. Specifically, this year's exercise will be the first time DHS will test both the draft National Cyber Incident Response Plan (an effort to provide a coordinated response to major cybersecurity incidents) that will be publicly released later this year and the new National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (the hub of DHS' cybersecurity coordination efforts).

With cybersecurity continuing to heat up as a national defense priority, Cyber Storm III will give the government a chance to see how ready it's processes and people really are in protecting the nation and Internet against malicious hackers. "So much of the cyber mission space is about collaboration, and every once in a while you've got to kick the tires to see how well it works," Bobbie Stempfley, director of DHS' National Cyber Security Division, said in a meeting with reporters last week.

This year's exercise will be the largest yet, including representatives from seven cabinet-level federal departments, intelligence agencies, 11 states, 12 international partners and 60 private sector companies in multiple critical infrastructure sectors like banking, defense, energy and transportation. High-level officials, including federal cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt and deputy homeland security secretary Jane Holl Lute, will be among those taking part.

The exercise's "players" will be working through the scenario in their real-world offices, including the new National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center. "It's happening where it would because we're trying to as closely simulate the real world as we can," Brett Lambo, director of DHS' National Cyber Security Division's cyber exercise program, said.

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