FS-ISAC leads financial sector in live-fire cyber exercise; Locked Shields

Steven Silberstein, Chief Executive Officer of FS-ISAC
Steven Silberstein, Chief Executive Officer of FS-ISAC

FS-ISAC, the member-driven, not-for-profit organisation that advances cybersecurity and resilience in the global financial system, recently announced that for the first time, FS-ISAC is convening nearly 30-member financial firms from around the world to participate in the world’s largest live-fire cyber defense exercise, the annual NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) Exercise Locked Shields, taking place on April 18-21, 2023.

What is the offering of CCDCOE’s Locked Shields?

Locked Shields involves a complicated but also cascading set of cyber-attacks on a fictional country, with crucial impacts ranging from military and government to critical infrastructure such as energy, telecommunications, shipping, as well as financial services. FS-ISAC designed the 2023 financial sector scenario in the strategic exercise, which simulates real-life payments system outages by a central bank and the cascading impacts on the entire financial system.

The scenario is based on similar but far less severe outages experienced over the last several years at major central banks around the world. Cyber threats to critical infrastructure systems, including financial systems, have become a reality of modern warfare, and Locked Shields has worked since 2010 to facilitate the much needed systematic, multi-sector, public-private cyber defense cooperation and coordination in anticipation of these threats from the nation-states.

Locked Shields is the largest and most complex international, live-fire cyber defense exercise in the world. It includes more than 2600 participants from 38 countries around the world, with more than 5500 virtualised systems subject to more than 8000 attacks. In addition to securing complex IT systems, participating teams must also be effective in reporting incidents, strategic decision-making, and solving forensic, legal, media, and information operations challenges.

Twenty-nine FS-ISAC member firms including Banco de Espana, Bank ABC, Banking and Payments Association Ireland, Barclays, CME Group, Mastercard, NLB, Nordic Financial CERT, Santander, and Union Bank and Trust participated in this year’s Locked Shields exercise.

What did the executives say about Locked Shields?

“Exercises like Locked Shields strengthen the resilience of the global financial sector and also go ahead to encourage collaboration and coordination across all the existing critical infrastructure and public sectors,” said Steven Silberstein, Chief Executive Officer of FS-ISAC.

“Our participation will allow us to crowdsource exercise responses from our global membership to assess and mitigate threats as the scenario unfolds, building the muscle memory our members and the overarching sector can rely on when faced with cyber warfare.”

“We identified the urgent need for the financial sector to partner alongside all the nation-states to make preparations and to exercise against the currently existing cyber threat landscape,” Dr. Mart Noorma, Director of the CCDCOE, a NATO-affiliated cyber defense hub commented.

“FS-ISAC’s constructive insights into the challenges facing the global financial system inform realistic exercise development, and we also appreciate their continued support and involvement as we strive to protect global critical infrastructure from future cyber incidents.”

Dr. Mart Noorma, Director of the CCDCOE
Dr. Mart Noorma, Director of the CCDCOE

“Partnerships built on strong collaboration and information sharing are essential when responding to a cyber incident. It truly takes a network to defend our networks. And through Locked Shields – and exercises like it – we have the chance to put our response plans into action and actively work together to defend our sector,” said Ron Green, CSO of Mastercard.

“We in the Nordic Financial CERT are used to exercising a range of scenarios with our members and critical infrastructure cross-sector in our digitally advanced Nordic countries. This is an opportunity to collaborate in real-time with our global peers. It helps us learn to build resilience for our societies’ critical functions, through adapting and defending digital functions that experience cyber-attacks,” said Morten Tandle, General Manager, Nordic Financial CERT.

“The threat landscape evolves rapidly; the way to stay ahead is to be prepared through exercising and collaboration,” Cameron Dicker, Global Head of Business Resilience, FS-ISAC.

“Proficient cross-border communication channels between and across the private and public sectors are critical to responding to incidents efficiently, with more minimal disruption to the customers and citizens. This is the major value of exercises like Locked Shields which help us build both the suitable means and the trust necessary to respond quickly in an ongoing crisis.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.