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U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation’s (PEO STRI) Cyber Resiliency & Training (CRT) team supported Cyber Flag 2022 from July 20 to Aug. 12, 2022, by operating the Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE).
Cyber Flag 2022 was a multinational exercise involving 17 cyber operations teams from various allied countries, including Canada, New Zealand and Australia, as well as federal agencies such as the Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Postal Service. Participants have used the PCTE platform for the U.S. Cyber Command’s (USCC) training event since 2020.
“The CRT staff led the operations support mission, enabling USCC [which organized the event] to create a virtual computer network called a “cyber range,” which DoD cyber operators could attack and defend without threatening real-world network infrastructure,” said Army Lt. Col. Dan Rodriguez, product manager for PEO STRI’s CRT. “We also worked with organizers to resolve any technical issues experienced by event participants and monitored system performance to ensure the PCTE system was stable and responsive.”
PCTE is an Army-led, agile acquisition program that provides a “train as they fight” capability in a configurable, real-time virtual environment for DoD cyber mission forces (CMF) at individual, team and force levels. The system enables CMF operators and trainers to create training environments that simulate operational network environments that include realistic scope (type of nodes), scalability (number of nodes), and fidelity (level of representation of nodes) driven by training objectives and mission requirements. PCTE also increases training throughput, expedites the production of training scenarios, improves training quality, and increases reuse of training scenarios and emulated environments.
Teams operating across five countries and nine time zones worked on “compromised” networks at notional facilities. The teams’ decisions and activities built on one another throughout the event, which could create more challenging scenarios, or allow teams to use more advanced and comprehensive defensive measures.
“Cyber Flag pits participants against live opponents with significant offensive cyber experience,” Rodriguez said. “By participating in this event, DoD cyber operators get hands-on experience in combating advanced threats similar to what they’d see in real-world scenarios. This experience results in an increase in the operators’ ability to find, eliminate and prevent threats to important U.S. networks and systems.”
The exercise also improves interoperability between allies and partners by establishing uniform standards and smoothing out operational wrinkles prior to real-world attacks that may require international cooperation and coordination.
“DoD teams are graded on the same scale as the teams from our partner countries, and this baseline provides the teams with a common understanding of the threats so they can collaborate and compare their techniques,” Rodriguez said. “In the future, the teams’ familiarity with each other’s operating procedures will benefit their ability to work together to combat advanced threats. Cyber Flag enables a multinational collaborative environment where the U.S. and international partners can share tools, tactics, techniques and procedures that strengthen partnerships while achieving collective cyber training readiness objectives.”
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