Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Atlantic Council: Wargaming to Find a Safe Port in a Cyber Storm

The Atlantic Council has issued a new report by Daniel Grobarcik, William Loomis, Michael Poznansky, and Frank Smith exploring how wargaming can help to address threats to the maritime transportation system (MTS).

Global and national security depend on understanding and mitigating threats to the MTS. The US government has taken some steps in this direction, including the National Maritime Cybersecurity Plan released in December 2020. More needs to be done, however, and one approach is to study what’s necessary through cyber wargaming, a useful tool for examining the complex and confusing problems involved with cyber and physical threats to critical infrastructure.

Working with Ed McGrady, the Cyber & Innovation Policy Institute (CIPI) at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, hosted government officials, military service members, students, and academics to play Hacking Boundary: A Game of Maritime Cyber Operations.9This war game addresses a hypothetical cyberattack against a major US port facility, and the first iteration of the game was played at the CIPI Summer Workshop on Maritime Cybersecurity in June 2022.

The second iteration of the game, conducted in partnership with the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, was held at the Industrial Control Systems Village at the DefCon Hacking Conference in August 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This iteration featured participants from across the maritime ecosystem, including active duty US Navy and Coast Guard personnel,  penetration testers, private sector operators, and many more.

This brief describes Hacking Boundary, along with several strategic and policy implications illuminated by repeated game play. The core takeaways include: (1) understanding the large attack surfaces of port facilities and the lead times that may be required to attack them; (2) the difficulties of prioritizing how and when to spend scarce resources; and (3) understanding that the tensions between competition and coordination, if navigated wisely, may offer defenders marginal—but valuable—advantages when providing maritime cybersecurity.

The full report can be found at the link above.

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