Brazil Organizes First Ibero-American Cyber Defense Exercise

Brazil Organizes First Ibero-American Cyber Defense Exercise

By Eduardo Szklarz/Diálogo
December 21, 2017

Brazil hosted the first Ibero-American Cyber Defense Exercise, October 23rd–27th, 2017, at the Electronic Warfare Training Center (CIGE, in Portuguese) in Brasília. The Cyber Defense Command (ComDCiber, in Portuguese) of the Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese) organized the exercise that brought together service members from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Portugal, and Spain, as well as observers from Peru—55 participants in all.

“The objective of this exercise was to foster collaboration among the nations of the Ibero-American Cyber Defense Forum,” said to Diálogo EB Lieutenant General Angelo Kawakami Okamura, commander of ComDCiber. Brazil and Spain co-directed the training according to terms agreed at the first Ibero-American Cyber Defense Forum held in Madrid on May 27th, 2016.

“Participants trained on identification techniques and vulnerability exploitation of data systems in simulated environments,” Lt. Gen. Okamura explained. “In addition, they shared information on security measures in systems and networks.” According to Lt. Gen. Okamura, all nations had the opportunity to share technical information and strengthen their relations. “We understand that mutual trust and knowledge are precepts that sustain cyber defense,” he said.

Combat operations

“Cyber defense is defined as actions taken in cyberspace that the Ministry of Defense coordinates and integrates within the context of strategic-level national planning,” EB Colonel Francisco Tarcísio Damasceno Filho, head of Media Communications for ComDCiber, told Diálogo. “Such operations are intended to protect information assets of interest to the National Defense, gather data to produce knowledge, and seek superiority over an adversary’s information systems.”

Such measures gained importance in recent years. “Cyber defense became a combat operation,” General Juarez Aparecido de Paula Cunha, head of the EB's Department of Science and Technology, said at the exercise’s opening ceremony. “That’s why we need to hold events like this, which promote progress and exchange of experiences among partner nations.”

According to Col. Tarcísio, today, virtual networks are part of the battlefield. “Therefore, effective operations in cyberspace are necessary,” he said. “Service members are trained to know this operational environment and acquire the ability to respond to this scenario in simulated environments.”

Virtual attacks

The exercise was conducted in three phases. Participants learned about the administrative and operational features of the National Cyber Operations Simulator (SIMOC, in Portuguese) in the initial phase. SIMOC is a scenario-generating machine for cyber defense and attack training in the virtual world. In the active defense phase, service members identified technical vulnerabilities in information technology systems introduced by exercise administrators.

In the third phase of collaboration through mitigation, each nation prepared a report on all problems encountered. “Then, each team shared possible solutions to mitigate the vulnerabilities found,” Lt. Gen. Okamura said.

Electronic warfare pioneers

EB is at the forefront of cyber defense. CIGE, established in 1984, was among the first institutions of its kind in Latin America. CIGE instructors offered training courses in England, France, Germany, and the United States, setting the foundations for Brazilian cyber defense. The Brazilian Armed Forces also acquired a Basic Electronic Warfare Experimentation Module, which was used to qualify personnel in the exercise.

In 1989, Brazil’s first specialists in electronic warfare received their diplomas. The group of 28 service members was known as the “Pioneer Class,” and it included Army and Marine Corps officers and noncommissioned officers.

At the same time, authorities of the Ministry of Defense formulated an electronic warfare doctrine. The result was the Cyber Defense Policy adopted in 2012. Its objective: jointly ensure the Armed Forces’ effective use of cyberspace (operational readiness and use), and prevent or hinder its use against Brazil’s national defense interests.

In 2013, EB unveiled SIMOC to train service members for potential cyber warfare. At the time, Colonel Marcio Fava of the EB’s Communications and Electronic Warfare Center, told Agência Brasil (the national public news) that attacks against Brazil were “imminent.” Potential threats against organizations and citizens—although less lethal than against the government—could be just as harmful to the nation, Col. Fava then said.

During the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Cyber Defense Command, made up of service members from the Brazilian Army, Navy, and Air Force, coordinated with the public and private sectors to prevent potential attacks. Since then, Brazilian service members have availed themselves of lessons learned at the games to improve technological battles and strengthen ties with partner nations.

“We currently face the challenge of expanding participation for Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations in the Ibero-American Cyber Defense Forum,” Lt. Gen. Okamura said. “The model applied in this exercise proved to be highly efficient for the discussion and operational actions in this field,” he concluded.