Washington Guard, partner countries test cybersecurity

  • Published
  • By Joseph Siemandel,
  • Joint Force Headquarters - Washington National Guard

CAMP MURRAY, Wash. – In a matter of minutes, cybercriminals strike an electrical grid outside Bangkok and critical infrastructure in Japan and Korea. It’s a likely scenario being tested and trained for during this year’s cybersecurity exercise at Cobra Gold 2021.

“For the exercise, we are trying to test other countries and their blue teams on how they respond to the exploits or enemy attacks and share that information between coalition partners,” said Sgt. 1st Class Lance Shimamoto, a cyber professional with 156th Information Operations Battalion, Washington Army National Guard. “With seven countries participating in the exercise, some things that work in one country may not for another, so there is a lot of sharing of information.”

Washington National Guard cyber experts join others from across the Department of Defense to provide exercise oversight and an opposing force “Red Team” cell for the cyber professionals from the partner countries participating.

“For me, I had never been on a Red Team or opposing force, so I am learning a lot about how the attackers may get into a system. It’s allowing us to even look at our vulnerabilities and harden them,” said Shimamoto.

Held annually in Thailand, Cobra Gold is a multinational Indo-Pacific military exercise to enhance the capabilities of participating nations to plan and conduct combined and joint operations, build relationships, and improve interoperability. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, parts of the exercise were shifted to a virtual environment.

“This year’s exercise is being held in four different countries, spread across four different time zones, but has truly been a learning experience as we look forward to the Cobra Gold cyber exercise in 2022,” said Lt. Col. Jason Silves, 194th Wing, Washington Air National Guard. “Working with Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines in a joint environment spread across the globe shows what we can accomplish through cyberspace.”

Due to the multiple time zones, the team at Camp Murray began its day at 6 p.m. and often finished around 4 a.m.

“Because of this schedule, we have been able to build relationships within our own joint team,” said Silves. “By sharing the love and bringing in Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors, we are able to learn from one another.”

Silves now travels to Hawaii to start planning for next year’s exercise.

“I end this exercise and already start planning for the 2022 exercise,” said Silves. “We continue to build off each year’s exercise and make this product better each time.”