As Norway prepares to host one of its largest military exercises in decades, the country is working to protect its defense events from cyber threats, particularly those from Russia.

The Norwegian Defense Forces’s (NDF) Cyber-Force Unit (NDF-CFU) has partnered with state telecom, Telenor Norway, to develop and deliver advanced cyber-defense solutions to deal with cyber-based threats. This includes attacks on critical IT systems and infrastructure that are used to manage and monitor specific events such as military exercises.

The Norwegian Defense Force is particularly concerned about regular joint maneuvers with NATO in the High North. These exercises have been attracting increased attention from Russia, particularly since 2012 when Russia tried to claim 460,000 square miles of ocean floor. At the same time, Russia is deploying more air-surveillance assets, including surface signals ships and submarines, to the Kola Peninsula to track force organization and the tactical side of these exercises more closely.

“We must ensure we have a proper emergency preparedness plan in place during peacetime to guarantee that it works on the day a national crisis unfolds,” said Maj. Gen. Inge Kampenes, the head of the cyber force unit.

The agreement aims to increase the CFU’s ability to deal with threats launched against specific events like military exercises and help bolster the unit’s proficiencies.

This includes developing the CFU’s cyber-warfare and crisis handling capabilities, identifying and correcting potential vulnerabilities and risks in its cyber infrastructure.

This is not Telenor’s first cyber-related agreement with the NDF. The company has collaborated with the NDF-CFU since 2012 to operate dedicated cyber defense systems to protect critical national infrastructure. The new agreement represents a deeper level of cooperation in the areas of technology transfer, expertise and information sharing.

The agreement also means that Telenor will play a more central role in Norway’s Total Defense strategy. Updated in 2017, this strategy aims to develop a more integrated approach to national defense by establishing closer cooperation between the NDF and civil defense agencies.

Norway’s defense organizations need a high degree of preparedness to effectively manage future crisis situations and threats in the cyber domain, said Berit Svendsen, the head of Telenor Norway.

“It’s crucial that we are well protected against new digital threats,” Svendsen said.

Norway plans to deploy its new cyber-defense capabilities during NATO’s Trident Juncture 2018 cold climate high-visibility exercises which are slated to take place across Northern Norway in fall 2018.

Then, between 30,000 to 50,000 soldiers from NATO member countries are expected to participate in Trident Juncture 2018, making it the biggest military exercises in Norway since the end of the Cold War.

Gerard O'Dwyer is the Scandinavian affairs correspondent for Defense News.

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