NATO’s biggest cyber defence exercise, the week-long Cyber Coalition started on Monday, 16 November 2020. The exercise aims to train cyber defenders in their ability to defend NATO and national networks; it tests decision making processes, technical and operational procedures, collaboration, as well as NATO and National Cyber Defence Capabilities.

The exercise improves collaboration within NATO’s cyberspace domain, enhances the ability of the Alliance to conduct operations and provides feedback to NATO Cyberspace Transformation.

Cyber Coalition 20, organized and run by NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, greets participants from 27 NATO nations, numerous NATO Partner nations, NATO Computer Incident Response Capability Technical & Coordination Centres, and the European Union Cyber Defence Staff. It ensures that NATO and its Partners are prepared to respond, collectively if necessary, when confronted by any threat and are able to do so in accordance with international law, including the UN Charter, as applicable.

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu said cyber threats are becoming more complex and disruptive. “NATO is committed to defend all Allies in cyberspace, as well as on land, in the air and at sea. A cyber-attack on one Ally can affect all of us. That is why strengthening our cyber defences is a priority for the Alliance,” she said.

Drawing inspiration from current-day threats, the exercise tests officials’ real-time responses to incidents, such as attempts to breach classified networks, disruption of communications systems in critical infrastructure and espionage through smartphone applications.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the exercise takes place virtually this year with about 1,000 cyber defenders connected through Estonia's Cyber Security Training Centre.

Cyber security has moved to the top of NATO’s agenda in recent years and NATO protects its own Information Technology networks 24 hours per day. In 2014, NATO broadened the scope of its collective defence commitment to cover severe cyber-attacks. In 2016, NATO declared cyber as an operational domain. NATO has rapid reaction cyber defence teams on 24/7 standby to help its Allies, and has also set up a Cyberspace Operations Centre to increase its ability to respond to cyber attacks.