Cyber Security Exercises

Types of Cyber Security Exercises: A Comprehensive Guide

Not investing in improving your cyber security capabilities as an organization can have dramatic results in the long run. According to SC Magazine, the average ransomware payout, year to year, has increased from $812,380 in 2022 to a staggering $1,542,333 in 2023. 

So, what are the solutions that can help you avoid this kind of substantial loss?

Well, first of all, you should ensure your team’s cyber preparedness and give them the training and resources they need to face potential cyber threats and attacks. 

You can do this by utilizing different types of cyber security exercises, which can help you play out different realistic scenarios and increase the overall security posture.

This article will give an in-depth overview of different types of cyber security exercises and their benefits, as well as real-life examples of organizations that successfully trained their teams through these types of activities. 

What Is a Cyber Security Exercise?

Simply put, a cyber security exercise is a practical way for an organization to boost its cyber resilience and prepare the team for a potential cyber threat or attack. 

They achieve that through different cyber security exercises on the cyber range, which is a platform that enables simulated environments for training and testing the team’s incident response capabilities. 

Cyber range technology typically includes a simulated network infrastructure, systems, and tools, which help training participants play out different realistic scenarios and understand what it really feels like to be under a cyber attack. 

Enterprises globally use cyber range technology for the following:

  • Assess their cyber readiness through different realistic scenarios
  • Improve team’s collaboration skills in a simulated environment
  • Identify and address their cyber skills development needs
  • Measure how effective their cyber training efforts are

What Types of Cyber Security Exercises Are There?

When it comes to improving your organization’s security posture, it is important to keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to conducting proper cyber security exercises.

Organizations need to have a clear understanding of their security needs, and they must choose the most relevant exercise that suits them most. 

Let’s have a look at what types of cyber security exercises there are and what approaches they use to equip organizations with the right tools to achieve their goals. 

Live Fire Exercise

A live-fire cybersecurity exercise is designed to assist professionals in this field in simulating and practicing defending against real-world cyber threats and attacks.

This exercise allows the entire team of participants to come together and practice their technical skills in responding to cyber attacks in a rapid and effective manner. 

With its deep technical Red vs Blue exercise elements, the primary objective of the Live-fire cybersecurity training is to provide participants with as realistic experience as possible to give them a taste of what defending IT-systems under the intense cyber-attacks look like. 

Predefined scenarios have been specifically designed to allow scoring, benchmarking, and effective data capture to maintain the effectiveness of this training exercise. The standardized game net environment, on the other hand, allows fair scoring and is manageable by Blue Team, giving the participants more flexibility with the process. 

The most significant learning objectives for the Live-fire cybersecurity exercise are the following: 

  • Encouraging cooperation between different stakeholders in the cyber defense within the organization. 
  • Actively monitoring and conducting a proper analysis of a cyber attack. 
  • Rehearsing essential defensive measures in case of an attack against a particular field or combination of fields. 
  • Practicing the habits of stress handling and decision making under multiple bad choices. 
  • Providing reports and creating an accurate basis for the management. 

The Process Behind the Live Fire Exercise

When talking about the steps of conducting the Live-fire exercise, it is important to keep in mind that the success of this activity is all about the team effort, and every single member should contribute to the exercise. 

Let’s have a look at the different phases and steps that are involved in organizing a typical Live-fire exercise on a cyber range:

  • Planning and preparation 

In the first phase of this exercise, participants should identify the main objectives of this activity, define the scope, and study the environment. At the same time, they should divide roles and responsibilities among the team members and understand their focus areas. 

  • Deployment and execution 

After the planning and preparation phase, everything is ready for the exercise to begin. This is when the participating team will start defending their environment against the cybersecurity attacks from the Red Team and execute the response plan they have played out. 

  • Evaluation and debriefing  

Finally, the participants of the exercise take part in an evaluation session, where they get an assessment of their performance, identify areas for improvement, and develop an action plan to improve vulnerabilities they have in their existing response plan. 

To have a more in-depth overview of the Live Fire cybersecurity exercise, have a look at this article on our blog.  

Benefits of the Live Fire Exercise

A key benefit of boosting your team’s cyber resilience through conducting a live-fire exercise comes down to the realistic experience that this activity can provide. 

This cybersecurity exercise closely simulates real-world threats and challenges, making it a perfect environment for the team to understand how to react and evaluate their capabilities on the highest level. 

This level of precision brings participating teams to sharpen their defenses and helps them understand how to identify and mitigate potential cyber threats effectively. It is important for organizations to uncover the gaps and vulnerabilities in their existing security posture to improve them to meet up-to-date requirements. 

Additionally, live fire exercise participants get immediate feedback on their performance, giving them the opportunity to get valuable insights into their decisions, actions, and problem-solving abilities.  

Threat Hunting Exercise

A Threat Hunting cybersecurity exercise refers to a type of activity where a team of industry experts work together in a simulated environment with the clear goal in mind – to find and stop threats with a collaborative effort. 

Imagine a process of detectives searching for clues in a crime scene. But, in this case, the team of cybersecurity professionals is looking for clues and evidence of suspicious activities, which can be anything from detecting computer viruses or hackers attempting to steal information. 

When it comes to practicing a team’s cybersecurity skills, conducting a Threat Hunting cybersecurity exercise is an effective solution. It teaches participants how to collaborate and use different tools to hunt for potential threats. This exercise also focuses on pushing participants to make accurate decisions in a timely manner. 

However, the most important aspect of conducting this exercise for the team is to help the overall team’s ability to respond to increasing amounts of cyber threats, and be proactive when there is a risk of attack. 

The Process Behind the Threat Hunting Exercise

Generally, the Threat Hunting cyber exercise consists of six layers that are fundamental to a successful outcome of this activity. These layers are the following: 

  • Planning  

The first essential step to organizing a successful exercise is to define the objectives, scope, and timeline of the activity. 

  • Preparation  

After defining the details, it is important to set up the network, systems, and applications that will be used throughout the exercise. 

  • Execution  

In this step, everything is ready to start the exercise. The participants actively search for signs and analyze system logs to identify potential threats. 

  • Response  

After identifying the threat, it is time for the team to take action to mitigate this threat. Typically, this involves isolating systems or blocking malicious traffic. 

  • Analysis  

As the exercise process comes to an end, the team has time to analyze the data collected to identify different patterns and trends for understanding weaknesses within the network. 

  • Reporting  

Final step to wrap up the activity is to report the results to the stakeholders. The report must include the summary, taken actions, and recommendations for the future improvements of the security posture. 

To have a more in-depth overview of the Threat Hunting cybersecurity exercise, have a look at this article on our blog. 

Benefits of Threat Hunting Cyber Exercise

Organizing a Threat Hunting exercise can be extremely beneficial for any organization that is in need of boosting cyber preparedness and improving its security posture. 

This is mainly because of the fact that this cybersecurity exercise helps teams improve their threat-response speed and accuracy. It incorporates a human aspect and challenges participants to search for inconsistencies within the network. 

Thanks to this approach, participants improve their abilities to identify attack patterns and maintain more security.  

Additionally, threat hunting exercise helps participants practice their skills in proactively detecting security threats and identifying hacker’s attempts to pass the ordinarily-designed security systems. 

By developing threat mitigation protocols, your organization can effectively reduce breaches and ensure a high level of security. 

Capture the Flag Exercise

Through a simulated Capture-the-Flag (CTF) cybersecurity exercise competition, participants aim to find and exploit computer system vulnerabilities to “capture a flag” – this “Flag” can be a specific piece of information, data, or a code hidden within the system. 

The primary objective of this cybersecurity exercise is to provide a realistic and challenging experience that helps participants develop and refine their skills in a controlled environment. 

Generally, Capture-the-Flag exercise involves multiple teams, with several participants in each, who compete and try to capture as many flags as possible within a specific period of time. These teams have a set of objectives from the beginning of the activity – their mission is to work together to properly execute the strategy and achieve goals. 

Achieving success in a CTF exercise is a collaborative effort, and that’s why teams must assist each other to exploit vulnerabilities. On the other hand, they also have to defend their own systems against attacks from other teams, helping them improve their communication and coordination skills throughout the process. 

The Process Behind the Capture-The-Flag Exercise

If we break down the process behind the CTF exercise, we can map out seven essential steps for making this activity successful. The prominent steps for conducting this exercise are the following: 

  • Planning and preparation 

In the first step of this exercise, the organizers need to develop scenarios and objectives for participants and set up the necessary tools to ensure a smooth experience. 

  • Kick-off and rules  

After the set up, it is time for the kick off – this is when the participants learn details about the exercise, and familiarize themselves with rules and guidelines. 

  • Reconnaissance  

Another important step for participants is to explore and analyze the virtual environment in order to identify vulnerabilities and potential attack vectors for the exercise.  

  • Exploitation  

Once the vulnerabilities are identified, teams need to develop and execute strategies to exploit them by launching attacks, deploying malware, or manipulating data. 

  • Defense  

Besides exploiting vulnerabilities, teams also need to defend their own systems and ensure security from other teams by monitoring network traffic and analyzing logs. 

  • Scoring and evaluation  

Organizers must track the progress of the teams throughout the exercise and assess their performance based on different variables. In the final stage, they announce the scores and reveal the winners. 

  • Debriefing  

After the exercise is over, it is important to hold a debriefing session to review performances and provide actionable feedback on strategies and techniques used all throughout this activity. 

To have a more in-depth overview of the Capture-the-Flag cybersecurity exercise, have a look at this article on our blog. 

Benefits of Capture-The-Flag Cybersecurity Exercise

Participating in the CTF exercise can be extremely beneficial for both the organization and the participant. 

This activity is a perfect place to broaden your technical skills and knowledge as a cybersecurity specialist. You can think of each challenge like a puzzle, which calls you to use your knowledge of different cybersecurity aspects and put them into practice. 

At the same time, challenges presented at the CTF competitions help participants gain real-world problem solving abilities, by facing a real nature of cyber threats and learning about strategies used to effectively mitigate them. 

Besides, CTF competition is an excellent platform for building a team’s overall confidence and boosting an organization’s cyber resilience by giving participants tough challenges and pushing them to overcome them with a strategic approach. 

Tabletop Exercise

A tabletop exercise refers to a security incident preparedness activity, which walks the participants through the process of responding to simulated cyber incidents against an organization. This exercise is fully based on scenarios, and it doesn’t involve a cyber attack. 

The main idea of this exercise is to help organizations think about and assess different risk scenarios, and prepare themselves for potential threats. 

Throughout the tabletop cybersecurity exercise, participants develop the Incident Response Plan and try to engage in conversation by answering the following questions:

  • What happens in case of a breach?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities divided within the team?
  • Who leads the process, and what is their authority?
  • What resources are available during the process? 

Regularly conducting a tabletop exercise for the executing in an organization comes with a lot of benefits. Firstly, it helps the team to increase the awareness and understanding of potential threats that might occur in the future. 

At the same time, it assists decision-makers to evaluate the overall incident preparedness of an organization, helping them to understand the current state of the team and think about solutions for improvement. 

Besides, it is important to clarify roles and responsibilities in advance so everyone knows how to react in case an incident occurs. A tabletop activity also clarifies this aspect for the teams and helps participants exercise the decision-making process effectively. 

Top Examples of Cyber Security Exercises From CybExer Technologies

Now that we know what these cyber security exercises represent and what their benefits are, let’s have a look at some examples where different international organizations benefited from conducting these exercises for their teams. 

Army Cyber Spartan 23

CybExer Technologies organized the Army Cyber Spartan 23 with the latest iteration of a large-scale Live Fire format. The exercise took place on the 20-24th of November 2023 at the Defence BattleLab (DBL) located in Dorset Innovation Park in the UK. 

This activity was designed to help participants improve their defensive skills through a range of progressive challenges. The goal was to educate Army personnel and assist them in developing cyber capabilities by facing challenges in a realistic environment. 

Army Cyber Spartan 23 brought together a staggering 320 participants and 15 industry partners from 6 different countries, forming 32 Blue Teams for this exercise. 

Have a look at the full overview of this exercise in this article.   

Boosting Cyber Resilience of Moldova’s Ministry of Defense

Together with e-Governance Academy, the CybExer Technologies team conducted an EU-supported cybersecurity exercise on 14-16th November 2023 for Moldova’s Ministry of Defense. 

This exercise brought together 29 members from the Armed Forces of Moldova to enhance their cyber defense skills and boost their cyber resilience. 

The primary objective of this exercise was to equip the military with the necessary skills and knowledge to detect, prevent, and respond to potential upcoming cyber threats, which can cause considerable damage to a country’s important infrastructure.  

Have a look at the full overview of this exercise in this article. 

Defence Cyber Marvel 3

Defence Cyber Marvel 3 (DCM 3) is one of the largest global cyber exercises in the world. This cybersecurity exercise hosted 1100+ participants forming 41 teams to compete against each other and enhance their cyber capabilities. 

Participants from 19 different countries, including Germany, Ukraine, Japan, the US, and the UK, came together in a controlled environment to participate in different technical challenges, which pushed them to compete against each other and develop their cybersecurity skills. 

Together with CR14, CybExer Technologies made a significant contribution to designing, building, and executing this exercise on both a technical and conceptual level. 

Have a look at the full overview of this exercise in this article.         


In the modern digital world, where cybersecurity is becoming increasingly challenging, organizations have to be more attentive to their staff’s skills development and boost their defense capabilities through different cyber security exercises using cyber range. 

This technology makes it easier to effectively conduct activities that boost the team’s overall cyber preparedness and make them ready to tackle potential cyber threats and attacks. 

At CybExer, we have been at the forefront of shaping the cybersecurity industry since 2016. We are committed to providing global organizations with advanced Cyber Range technology, helping them to improve their security posture. 

Our platform offers a wide range of advanced cyber security training modules designed to enhance the cyber capabilities of organizations worldwide. If you’d like to learn more about our offering, schedule a call with our cyber range experts to discuss how we can help you address your organization’s needs.