Sovereign cyber businesses step up for defence training

Sovereign cyber businesses step up for defence training

Canberra is Australia’s defence capital with the largest concentration of defence and national security agencies, assets, organisations, diplomatic networks and industry bodies in Australia. Consequently, opportunity exists for cyber security providers to develop custom solutions to meet defence needs.

In an Australian first, a group of innovative, sovereign cyber companies collaborated to create a successful pilot of a fully online, collective cyber training program for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

Australian businesses Cydarm Technologies, elttam, FifthDomain, Penten and Retrospect Labs, each with expertise in niche cyber technology, came together to tailor a solution for defence on FifthDomain’s cyber training and simulation platform.

The aim of the Accelerated Defence Cyber Training (ADCT) Program echoes the current need for remotely accessible training programs, while also addressing the requirement to rapidly increase cyber skills across defence and industry.

The online training program was conducted from FifthDomain’s headquarters in Canberra, and was delivered remotely to Navy, Army and Air Force personnel across the country. 

The training was conducted in a highly realistic virtual environment with simulated exercises. Trainees were grouped into virtual teams to remediate vulnerabilities and respond to simulated and real threat actors.

Each cyber business brought their own set of capabilities to create a bespoke solution for the ADF.

Cydarm Technologies deployed their case management platform and dashboard as a command and control system to coordinate team activities and provide oversight for the mentors. Vaughan Shanks, CEO of Cydarm Technologies said, “This enabled trainees in the cyber security operations teams to collaborate on responding to incidents, using playbooks, while the mentors continually assessed their progress.”

elttam, an independent security company which specialises in high-quality offensive and defensive security services, played the role of cyber threat actors for the ADF trainees. Matt Jones, Director and Co-founder of elttam said, “We were proud to tailor realistic adversarial scenarios by employing the Tactics Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) found in real world cyber-attacks. The design and execution of each scenario was carefully tailored to give Defence participants the best experience in identifying, learning from, and defending against such cyber threats.” 

FifthDomain, the project lead and provider of the training and simulation platform, specialises in cyber operations workforce development. Matt Wilcox, CEO of FifthDomain said, “FifthDomain’s cyber ranges benefit by being able to integrate niche technologies from our partners to provide Defence the best of breed in Australian cyber innovation. Within the context of COVID-19 limitations, the sovereign, remotely accessible platform enables defence to overcome travel and supply chain challenges to successfully achieve this goal.”

Penten enjoyed the challenge of integrating their unique AI generated content and user behaviour on FifthDomain’s cyber training platform. Founder and Director of Penten Ben Whitham said, “Although this is only the first step working together, the combined solution of additional realism and automation will enhance the training outcomes, reduce the time taken to create the environments and improve the repeatability.”

Retrospect Labs co-designed and facilitated multiple cyber security exercises as part of the ADF’s Accelerated Defence Cyber Training course. Jason Pang, CEO of Retrospect Labs said, “We leveraged our unique exercise platform to remotely manage and deliver these exercises to more than 50 ADF trainees dispersed across Australia.”

Delivery of this program closely aligned with Australia’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020, released in August 2020, which commits A$1.67 billion investment over ten years and outlines a range of initiatives including the growth of the country’s cyber skills pipeline as one of its key recommendations.

This case study is featured in Australia’s Cyber Security Sector Competitiveness Plan 2020, which can be viewed here and downloaded here.