European Union defence ministers tested their ability to respond to a potential attack by computer hackers in their first cyber war game on Thursday, based on a simulated attack on one of the bloc’s military missions abroad.
In the simulation, hackers sabotaged the EU’s naval mission in the Mediterranean and launched a campaign on social media to discredit the EU operations and provoke protests.
Each of the defence ministers tried to contain the crisis over the course of the 90-minute, closed-door exercise in Tallinn that officials sought to make real by creating mock news videos giving updates on an escalating situation.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said the “extremely exciting” war game showed the need for EU governments to be more aware of the impact of cyber attacks on critical infrastructure in the EU.
“The adversary is very, very difficult to identify, the attack is silent, invisible,” Von der Leyen told reporters. “The adversary does not need an army, but only a computer with internet connection”.
“We needed to raise awareness at the political level,” Jorge Domecq, the chief executive of the European Defence Agency that helped organise the exercise with Estonia, told Reuters.
Especially concerned about Russia since it seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, Estonia has put cyber security at the forefront of its six-month EU presidency and proposed the exercise.
Estonia was hit by cyber attacks on private and government Internet sites in 2007. One of the world’s most Internet-savvy countries, with 95 percent of government services online, Estonia has a separate cyber command in its armed forces. But it is not without its vulnerabilities.
International researchers have found a security risk with the chips embedded in Estonian identity cards that could allow hackers to steal people’s identities, although officials said there was no evidence of a hack.