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State researchers set up secret cyber warfare lab

Government’s technical research centre VTT has set up a special laboratory for the exclusive purpose of preparing for cyber warfare scenarios and developing Finland’s cybercrime-busting muscle. Not surprisingly the location of the lab is classified.

Henkilö kirjoittaa tietokoneen näppäimistöllä. Tietokoneen hiiri kuvan etualalla.
Image: Yle

Growing threats to data security have prompted the Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT to establish the country’s first Cyber War Room laboratory. The facility will allow experts to test the security of corporate and government networks in controlled conditions.

The project resembles the plot of a modern day science fiction film: the lab is entirely shut off from outside telecommunications and runs its own secure network – a mini-internet of sorts. However the network provides all the functionalities of the open internet and allows users to modify it to meet different test scenarios.

The lab is designed to allow its operators to simulated lifelike but controlled cyber attacks on the network's devices and related software.

“Red team” to develop cyber attack capabilities

VTT will be using the Cyber War Room to develop its own cyber attack capabilities, which it says is essential for waging cyber warfare and learning suitable tactics.

“Naturally the staff here are hand-picked and they will work only in this location and will take account of ethical considerations. That’s important in the red team, which will develop attack strategies,” said VTT lead researcher Reijo Savola.

“At the end of the day everything we do here is to ensure that we have the best possible opportunity to prepare for such attacks,” he added.

Lab workers will examine different kinds of attack strategies including denial of service strikes as well as how to penetrate or hijack systems.

“Cases that required intervention”

The VTT lab has been in a pilot stage for some time and has aroused a great deal of interest, Savola noted. He added that experience has shown that on average the ability to withstand cyber attacks in Finland is poor.

“We have already seen cases where we have had to intervene,” the researcher remarked.

According to Savola VTT has plans to construct similar facilities. For the moment the precise location of this first facility is being kept under wraps.

“This is important to help maintain confidence,” he noted.

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