In the News April 23
U.S./NATO Conduct Massive Cyber Warfare Exercises
Expanded Country Cyber War Exercises April 16-22
From April 19 to 22, NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) held what is being lauded as “the world’s largest and most complex international real-time cyber defence exercise.” Called “Locked Shields,” the exercises have been held since 2010 when NATO established the Cyber Centre which is based in Tallinn, Estonia.
The NATO Cyber Centre announced the “winners” of Locked Shields on April 22. Carry Kangur, head of the exercises, said Finland, which is currently considering joining NATO, came first. Finland was followed by a joint team of Lithuania and Poland while the Estonian-Georgian team coming in third.
The announcement says that there were 5,500 “virtualized systems … subject[ed] to more than 8,000 live-fire attacks,” in the exercise which included 24 teams. The CCDCOE reports that participation this year surpassed that of previous exercises. These teams, in turn, are drawn from 32 participating countries. Ukraine was also involved. Participants in the exercise are assigned to Red Teams which conduct offensive operations, and Blue Teams on defence. Several non-NATO members were included in the operations.
The fact is that the intelligence agencies of the U.S./NATO powers have been engaged in cyberattacks for some time. They have been waging a massive disinformation and warmongering campaign about the situation in Ukraine since the Maidan coup d’etat in 2014. This has been put on steroids since before February 24 when Russia launched its special military operation, as part of the attempt to isolate, encircle and crush Russia. To divert attention from this, the current specific live exercises are presented as “defensive.” According to an unnamed NATO spokesperson, they are aimed at preparing “for the possibility of a Russian [cyber] attack.”
An April 19 article on the technology website Gizmodo based on information from this “unnamed NATO spokesperson” reports that cyber “defence” units of the participating countries “have been on high alert since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine.” He explained that the exercise would include multiple ‘hostile events’ that target both military and civilian IT systems. Locked Shields would incapacitate a make-believe island to “near-zero capacity” communications, water purification systems, and electric power. Another scenario in the exercise envisages a scenario in which “with chaos ensuing, the nation’s public grows uneasy and mass protests break out.” The exercise was also to include an attack on “reserve management and financial messaging systems of a central bank.”
The NATO Cyber Centre informs that its co-organizers included corporations Siemens, TalTech, Clarified Security, Arctic Security, CR14. The announcement of the winners also “acknowledges the unique elements added to Locked Shields 2022 by Microsoft, the Financial Service Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS ISAC), SpaceIT, Fortinet.”
The Locked Shields exercise mirrors a plan put in place during the U.S. Bush Jr and Obama administrations known as Nitro Zeus. It was designed to cripple Iran so as to force it to submit to U.S. dictate on its nuclear industry. It would have taken down major parts of Iran’s civilian infrastructure, including its power grid, phone lines, and air defenses. While the full plan was not activated, the U.S. and Israel did carry out a cyber attack now known as ‘Olympic Games’ on Iran’s nuclear energy systems, most devastating at its Natanz plant where it resulted in the destruction of 1,000 nuclear centrifuges. ‘Olympic Games’ was the first known cyberattack that resulted not only in the malfunctioning of computer systems but the actual destruction of physical infrastructure.
Chronicled in a 2016 documentary entitled Zero Days, Nitro Zeus involved thousands of cyber warriors implanting code and programs within Iranian networks which would have brought the country to a standstill. The “worm” became known as “Struxnet” when it made its way into computer networks around the globe in 2010.
The Locked Shields exercise also mirrors the real life method of cyber weaponry development and deployment, involving not only the secret service agencies of the NATO allied countries, but the major “cyber security” corporations that profit from it and the employees they contract out to the war industry.
In 2012, it was estimated that over a third of the 1.4 million personnel in the U.S. with top-secret clearances were private contractors. Edward Snowden was a prime example, having been hired by Booz Allen, owned by J. Michael McConnell. McConnell started his career as a navy intelligence officer in the Mekong Delta during the Vietnam War and later became National Security Agency (NSA) Director under President Clinton’s administration. He was among those who oversaw the ‘Olympic Games’ under Bush’s presidency. When he left his government job, he returned to Booz Allen for a $4.1 million job. Just before the Snowden revelations, Booz Allen won a $5.6 billion contract to conduct intelligence analysis for the Defense Intelligence Agency and another $1 billion contract with the Navy for “a new generation of intelligence, surveillance and combat operations.”
The U.S.-led integration of the NATO countries into the cyber war complex has resulted in the expansion of spying agencies in the member countries, such as the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC) being provided with “legal” authority to conduct offensive operations, abandoning the pretence that they were merely involved in defence. Enacted in Canada with the Harper regime’s anti-terrorist legislation, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals maintained and strengthened the offensive operations of CSEC when they came to power.
1. Zero Days documents the discovery and process of attribution that linked the U.S. and Israel with ‘Olympic Games’ and the “worm” Stuxnet, a piece of self-replicating computer malware unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target. The project spanned the presidencies of Bush Jr and Obama. Directed by Alex Gibney, the main thrust of the two-hour documentary is not only the exposure of the cyber attack on Iran. It suggests that there is a need for “transparency,” in the U.S. cyber war plans so that there can be a public debate on the place of these cyber weapons in modern day warfare.
TML Daily, posted April 23, 2022.