Exercise Tests Virginia Guard’s Cyber Response Plan

By Cotton Puryear, Virginia National Guard Public AffairsAugust 25, 2023

Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 91st Cyber Brigade and the Richmond-based Joint Force Headquarters - Virginia Defense Cyber Operations Element take part in the Cyber Fortress 2.0 cyber defense exercise July 13, 2023, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear)
Virginia National Guard Soldiers assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based 91st Cyber Brigade and the Richmond-based Joint Force Headquarters - Virginia Defense Cyber Operations Element take part in the Cyber Fortress 2.0 cyber defense exercise July 13, 2023, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Cotton Puryear) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The Virginia National Guard hosted Cyber Fortress 2.0, testing Virginia’s cyber response plan in an exercise with state and federal organizations that would respond in a real-world cyber incident.

“The cyber domain is one of the most complex we operate in across the whole of government and whole of industry, and almost every citizen has something tied to network operations,” said Maj. Gen. James W. Ring, the adjutant general of Virginia. “We are working in the cyber domain on a routine basis, and what an exercise like Cyber Fortress should do is push us beyond the routine into the complex and get us to the point where it stresses our processes and institutions to determine how to mitigate the impacts of a potential cyber response situation.”

As part of the VNG’s ongoing partnership with Finland, representatives from the Finnish Defence Forces also took part in the exercise. Ring recognized them for their contributions and presented them with coins.

This year’s exercises focused on a cyber attack on a major telecom mission partner with participation from public and private partners from the local, state and federal level, said Col. Rusty McGuire, commander of the VNG’s 91st Cyber Brigade.

The first part of the exercise involved a tabletop exercise to test the ability of local, state and federal resources to respond to a private critical infrastructure partner. In the second phase, civilian private sector and National Guard cyber professionals conducted a force-on-force cyber exercise on Army Cyber’s new training range, PCTE.

“This is truly an outstanding exercise that puts our collective cyber incident response to the test,” McGuire said. “This year, training was more realistic with the cyber warriors defending and attacking an actual network that controls a telecom infrastructure.”

The July 10-21 exercise participants included the Army and Air National Guard, Army Reserve and Army Northern Command, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Virginia State Police and Virginia Fusion Center, FEMA, the FBI and the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency.

“I applaud the Virginia National Guard for continuing to coordinate these exercises because it is essential we continue to coordinate between our local, state and federal partners to ensure a high state of readiness to support the private sector,” said Shawn Talmadge, VDEM state coordinator of emergency management.

VNG Soldiers assigned to the 91st Cyber Brigade, the Information Operations Support Center and the Joint Force Headquarters - Virginia Defense Cyber Operations Element and VNG Airmen assigned to the 185th Cyberspace Operations Squadron, 192nd Operations Group, 192nd Wing were integrated into other cybersecurity teams involved in the exercise.

The first Cyber Fortress exercise was conducted in Richmond in September with numerous public and private sector partners. McGuire said planning is underway for Cyber Fortress 3.0.

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