Maryland National Guard cyberwarriors worked with their Estonian counterparts during Exercise Hedgehog 2018, also known as Exercise Siil 2018 locally and by NATO. Estonian police, border forces and emergency management personnel participated along with members of the Michigan and Oklahoma National Guard. With the cooperation from 15 NATO allied forces, more than 15,000 personnel participated in the exercise.
The purpose of the exercise is to train on territorial defense, both in conventional and asymmetrical warfare. One of the exercise’s goals was to build cyber awareness with physical objects to test policy and procedures. "We used a technique known as cyber exploitation to test [the Estonians’] internal cyber awareness," said a Maryland Guard cyberwarfare operator.
Guard members from the 175th Wing's Cyber Operations Group from Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Maryland, and their Estonian partners employed the exercise to leverage their joint knowledge and skills from both civilian and military backgrounds by incorporating cyber scenarios that could cause potential threats if they were real situations. Scenarios involving rogue wireless access points, phishing attacks with links to a website, and leaving quick response codes with Siil 18 branding to capture basic information from those connecting were used as means for testing the internal cyber awareness levels of the Estonian military personnel. There was also removable media loaded with malware, ransomware attacks, and planting cell phones within units to track locations.
These scenarios mirror real world ways attackers attempt to collect information. Obtaining such information in reality could allow an adversary to gain intelligence of the ongoing military activities and potentially compromise planned missions."Essentially, they are breaking into your house, but not stealing anything," the Maryland Guard cyberwarfare operator said, explaining it’s like they leave a nice little note behind, letting you know they were here.
"This training is so valuable to exercise our shared goals and values," said an Estonian military member. "The everyday tactical and technical efforts put substance to all the cooperation that goes into our established relationship."