NEWS | Feb. 21, 2019

Cobra Gold 19: Royal Thai, US Conduct First Ever Cyber Range

By Staff Sgt. Matthew Bragg III MEF Information Group

BANGKOK, Thailand -- The Royal Thai Armed Forces alongside the U.S. Marine Corps and Washington Air National Guard executed the first Cobra Gold Cyberspace Field Training Exercise (FTX) at the Royal Thai Air Force Headquarters in Bangkok, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 11-22, 2019.

The Cyber FTX is a combined defensive cyber operations training environment focused on identifying and defending critical information and warfighting systems against a cyberspace attack. There has been a heavy emphasis on increased protection in the cyberspace domain within the U.S. Department of Defense, which makes cultivating cyberspace defense with U.S. multinational partners the next logical step in becoming better trained to combat the threat.

The cyber range allows Royal Thai and U.S. forces to work together to patrol a network, like a squad conducting a security patrol, in order to illuminate and eradicate adversary presence. If they detect any threat, then those details are reported up the chain of command to the Cyber Defense Operations Center, or CDOC, in order to find an effective solution to defeat the threat.

“This cyber range is important, especially for the Marine Corps, because we’re getting our first real repetitions and sets as the [Defense Cyber Operations – Internal Defensive Measures Company] working together,” said a defensive cyber operator with DCO-IDM Co., 7th Communication Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group. “We’ve been training constantly up until this point, and this is the first time we can actually implement what we’ve learned and put it to trial by fire.”

During the cyber range, Royal Thai and U.S. forces operated on a training network ran by the Washington Air National Guard, which simulates as close to a real-world network as possible.

Within the cyber range battlespace, the Royal Thai and U.S. forces each patrol their assigned fields. This allows them to simulate an environment where each force can identify assets critical to the mission, detect anomalous activity, report through the CDOC to the simulated Combined Cyber Fusion Center, and apply appropriate defensive measures.

“This exercise isn’t just about the technical part,” said Royal Thai Air Force Group Capt. Amorn Chomchoey, the director of Cyber Warfare Division, Office of Command and Control, Directorate of Information and Communication Technology. “It’s about making all of the team members work together as a single unit and strive together to achieve common goals.”

Chomchoey stressed that defensive cyber operations are important not just during war but during times of peace as well.

“Right now, cyber warfare is different from the other types of warfare because with the others you have to declare war,” Chomchoey said. “But for cyber warfare, it’s happening every day. For instance, right now the assets we are protecting, there are going to be bad actors or hackers that are trying to access any of that low-hanging fruit.”

According to Chomchoey, a lot of the techniques and tactics used to hack into friendly networks are already available on the internet, and there are easy-to-follow guides that help adversaries understand how to use them so they can target friendly networks.

“Hopefully as we move forward, we can continue to find common ground and have more people involved,” Chomchoey said. “It’s not just our mission to fend off the bad guys, but also to ensure everything is going according to plan and the network continues to run and support the mission.”

Exercise Cobra Gold, its 38th iteration, demonstrates the commitment of the Kingdom of Thailand and the United States to our long-standing alliance, promotes regional partnerships and advances security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.