In late 2018, the Peruvian Army inaugurated its Cyberdefense Command at the Army Headquarters of Lima. The modern installations count with technology and cutting-edge computer systems, in addition to highly trained units in cyberspace monitoring and security.
The objective of the specialized command is to protect military assets, such as weapons and data systems from possible cyberattacks. The command will also contribute to defending the resources of Peruvian Armed Forces and the government, among other duties.
“The weapons and command and control systems have IT platforms,” said Peruvian Army Colonel Ernesto Castillo Fuerman, commander of the Cyberdefense Command. “If they are rendered useless, the government won’t be able to hold up in critical operations. The military won’t be able to command or use their weapons systems. He who wins the cyberspace battle will be able to defeat the enemy without a physical battle, but with a cyberspace battle.”
Modern training and technology
The command, officially inaugurated on October 29, 2018, has a rigorous entry protocol. The first sign of cutting-edge technology can be noted at the front door: entry is only allowed by way of facial recognition.
About 50 officers and noncommissioned officers work on a daily basis at the command, applying three capabilities: protection, exploration—which consists of monitoring events in cyberspace—and action. The entire command’s personnel were trained in cyberdefense, cybersecurity, and cybercrime with the Army and abroad, mainly in Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Spain, and the United States.
“I took a cyberdefense course at the [Peruvian Army] School of Communications, and we continue to train,” Peruvian Army Captain Carmen Asencios, who works in the command’s exploration area told Diálogo. “I check for threats in cyberspace that might pose a problem to the command. Day by day, we monitor the Army systems. It’s a practical exercise we carry out, like internal work, so we can then work with other institutions.”
According to Col. Castillo, training of personnel is one of the main assets for the command’s development and progress. Agreements with the National University of Engineering and the Army War College, both in Lima, are also on the way to create a master in Cyberdefense.
“Since 2013, we’ve been concerned with a very important factor: people,” Col. Castillo said. “We started with two seminars and nine officers, who we sent to study masters in cybersecurity. We have a strategic partnership with the Brazilian Army, which leads in cyberdefense [in the region], because critical cyber structures are not in the air, but on the ground.”
For the Cyberdefense Command, the Brazilian experience in international events, such as the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, serve as reference points. The Peruvian institution hopes to use this knowledge in two big events the country will host in 2019: the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima in July and August, and the FIFA U-17 World Cup in October.
“We will meet with the head of technology of the Pan American [Games],” said Col. Castillo. “The idea is to provide cybersecurity to sports activities from the land domain. I would like to demonstrate our capabilities to provide adequate cybersecurity.”
The idea for the Cyberdefense Command arose in 2010, when the Army’s Center for Tactical Computerized Training was created. After acquiring a French software program, Peruvian Army authorities discovered the potential of their units.
“For example, the French would take three weeks to set up a virtual war scenario, [while] we did it in two days, because we accessed the programming code, we set it up in different computers, and then joined the different parts, like a puzzle,” Col. Castillo said. “I trust the innovative capabilities and problem-solving skills of Peruvian officers.”
According to the 2017 report from the Global Cybersecurity Index, an entity of the United Nations International Telecommunications Union that measures countries’ readiness to face cyberthreats, Peru is considered a developing country that is developing complex commitments and taking part in several cybersecurity initiatives and programs. The report also states that Peru ranks 78th among the 193 member nations.
Cyberdefense occupies an increasingly relevant place in the agendas of Latin America and their military institutions. For the Peruvian Army, moving forward with cybersecurity means continuing with the mission of defending the national territory and the state’s interests.
“We will meet this challenge with the Peruvian Army’s four values: discipline, integrity, dedication to service, and commitment to excellence,” Col. Castillo concluded. “As long as we honor these values, we will meet the challenge we have set.”