Leader with coworkers showing cyber exercise

How to Conduct a Successful Cybersecurity Exercise

Organizations worldwide face increasing amounts of cyber threats and attacks every single month. Statistics show that a staggering 236.1 million ransomware attacks occurred globally in the first half of 2022.

In order to respond to these attacks, enterprises must invest their time and resources into efficiently training their teams and improving their organizational cyber resilience with the help of effective cyber exercises.

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about conducting a successful cybersecurity exercise.

How should you measure the success of a cybersecurity exercise?

Cybersecurity exercises must help your employees understand all the potential cyber risks and threats better. The ultimate goal would be to improve their skills to identify potential threats and teach them how to prevent them from escalating.

At the same time, exercise should assist your team members in getting all the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively respond to incidents on time. Reporting these incidents and creating proper documentation is also part of the process.

Another aspect of a successful cybersecurity exercise is the employee education level on different procedures and security policies that the company has in place. This will minimize the risks of security breaches, which must be taken into account at all times.

When setting goals and objectives for a cybersecurity exercise, it would be beneficial to ask these questions yourself and analyze the potential outcomes of an exercise through that:

  • Does this exercise increase security awareness among the team?
  • How does it improve the team’s incident response capabilities?
  • Does it enhance your risk mitigation efforts?
  • Does it help with compliance?

If the cybersecurity exercise of your choosing ticks all of these boxes, then you can move on to setting the exact objectives and potential outcomes you’d like to see from this activity.

Now, the important part is to choose what type of cybersecurity exercise you’d like to organize – would you like to focus solely on theoretical knowledge, or do you want to give your employees a chance to have hands-on practical experience in a simulated environment.

What types of active training cybersecurity exercises exist?

When it comes to conducting a cybersecurity exercise, the main approach that organizations worldwide utilize is giving their team members more hands-on practical experience by running different scenarios in a simulated environment.

The technology that allows companies to conduct such exercises is called a Cyber Range – it provides a simulated environment that organizations can use to train cybersecurity professionals and test their incident response capabilities.

There are different types of exercises that help companies train their team members, test new technology, and become more cyber-resilient.

Exercises that cyber ranges provide include the following:

  • Live-fire exercise

This controlled, real-world simulation of a cyber attack brings participants (organization’s cybersecurity professionals) together to actively respond to a cyber threat.

Generally, Live-Fire Exercise aims to give participants a realistic training experience by simulating different intense scenarios where their IT systems are under attack.

  • Threat hunting exercise

In this case, cybersecurity experts come together to find and stop threats in a simulated environment with a collaborative effort.

Throughout the exercise, a team of participants is trying to detect suspicious activities, such as hackers attempting to steal information with various methods and detecting unusual computer viruses in the system.

  • Capture-the-flag exercise

This type of exercise challenges participants to find and exploit system vulnerabilities with a clear goal in mind – to “capture the flag.” This can be a code hidden within the system or a specific piece of information.

The objective is to provide a challenging experience to the participants that helps them practice and develop their skills in a controlled environment.

What are the key elements for preparing a successful cybersecurity exercise?

Generally, when it comes to setting processes and preparations, each cybersecurity exercise requires a different approach from one another.

However, there are still general rules and guidelines that apply to all of the cybersecurity exercises – they can help you better prepare for the process and make sure to get the most out of the activity.

Essential components for planning a successful cybersecurity exercise are:

  • Goal setting – typically, cybersecurity exercises start with a primary goal-setting session for different teams. The more concrete and specific the goals are, the better you can track results in the end.
  • Kickoff & rules – the event to have a proper introduction of an exercise for participants and provide them with rules, objectives, and guidelines of a planned activity.
  • Exploitation – at this point, teams are developing and executing strategies to exploit identified vulnerabilities. This includes launching simulated attacks, deploying malware, or manipulating data.
  • Defense – it is important for teams to defend their own systems against attacks from other teams. In order to achieve this, they should implement various defensive measures that differ based on the cybersecurity exercise of their choosing.
  • Scoring & evaluation – throughout the exercise, organizers and instructors track the progress of team performance on different criteria. This is when the winners are announced.
  • Debriefing & reporting – After the exercise is complete, organizers hold a debriefing session where they review everyone’s performance, share insights, and document the progress of this activity.

Wrapping up

When it comes to conducting a cybersecurity exercise and empowering your team members to practice their skills in this field, organizations worldwide must embrace innovative solutions like Cyber Range technology to educate their teams and ensure their organizational cyber resilience.

Organizing cybersecurity exercises can help address employee skill gaps, help team members collaborate and learn from each other, and optimize security processes within an organization.