Eleven New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel have taken part in a United States exercise designed to build a community of military defensive cyber operators armed with skills to defend against modern digital threats.
This year’s NZDF contribution to Exercise Cyber Flag in Suffolk, Virginia included personnel drawn from the NZ Army Land Component and Special Operations Component. Amongst these were Regular Force soldiers as well as part-time Army Reserve Force soldiers and a civilian from the NZDF’s Defence Cyber Security Centre.
The exercise, hosted by US Cyber Command late last month, was conducted alongside military partner nations. It was the first time in recent years the NZDF has physically been able to attend the exercise due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Director of Land Communications and Information Systems, Lieutenant Colonel Jay McLeary, said it was important New Zealand was involved in multinational exercises that helped build the skills of personnel.
“Exercises such as Cyber Flag provide New Zealand’s military cyber workforce a valuable opportunity to collaborate with, and then test their mettle against, their closest partner military cyber peers in dealing with complex digital threats,” he said.
“Despite being a capability under development, our cyber operators have earned considerable mana in recent years working alongside our partners. It’s a unique opportunity for our personnel to test their skills in a different environment and is essential for our people to be ready.”
The exercise’s key objectives included improving the overall capability and readiness of participating nations to defend critical networks and infrastructure, as well as enhancing the conduct of integrated military cyberspace operations.
“The ability to share tactics, techniques and procedures between partners is fantastic for developing best practices around specialised skills such as cyber intelligence, monitoring, incident response and threat-hunting operations,” Lieutenant Colonel McLeary said.
The NZDF and NZ Army are seeking to expand its cyber capability by developing direct entry trade training and career pathways.