What is a Live Fire Exercise and How is it Conducted?

A live fire exercise helps cybersecurity professionals simulate and practice defending against real-world cyber attacks. The role of an instructor in a live fire exercise is important, yet the entire team of participants work together to practice not only their technical skills but also the team spirit necessary in responding to cyber attacks rapidly and effectively.

The purpose of a live fire exercise is to provide hands-on training for cyber security professionals and to test the capabilities of the team against for instance malware, social engineering attacks, and other types of attacks. Live fire exercise allows security professionals to identify weaknesses in their cybersecurity systems and to develop strategies for mitigating and responding to cyber attacks.

Instructor-led training

Whereas some trainings and exercises on cyber ranges can be conducted without an instructor, in live fire exercises the role of the instructor is critical.

In a live fire exercise, the instructor works to create a safe, educational, and engaging learning environment where the participants can develop their cybersecurity skills and expertise. They will help the participants gain the knowledge and confidence they need to succeed in real-world cybersecurity scenarios.

As first, the instructor will plan and design, oftentimes together with the participating team, the live fire exercise, setting its scope, objectives, and the attack scenarios to be used. This includes determining the level of difficulty of the exercise and ensuring that the exercise aligns with the objectives of the training program.

During the exercise, the instructor is responsible for monitoring the participants and the exercise itself, tracking progress and taking corrective action if necessary. They are responsible for maintaining the safety and security of the participants, the equipment, and the cyber range itself.

The instructor should provide feedback and guidance to the participants throughout the exercise. This includes highlighting areas where participants need to improve and providing best practices and guidance for future exercises. They should also be available to answer any questions and provide support to the participants.

At the end of the exercise, the instructor should conduct a debriefing session. During the debriefing, they will review the exercise’s objectives, evaluate the participants’ performance, and identify areas for improvement. The debriefing will help ensure that the participants have learned from the exercise and can apply their new skills and knowledge to future cybersecurity scenarios.

Live fire exercise, step by step

As discussed above, the instructor plays a key role in running a live fire exercise. Yet as these exercises are always conducted in teams, carrying out the effort is never a one wo/man show, but the entire team may, and should, contribute to making the exercise a success. Here are the steps and phases involved in a typical live fire exercise on a cyber range:

Planning and Preparation: The first phase of a live fire exercise involves planning and preparation. The participating team will identify the objectives and goals of the exercise, define the scope of the exercise, and develop a scenario that simulates a realistic cyber attack.

The team will also determine the roles and responsibilities of each member, identify the necessary equipment and tools, and ensure that all necessary resources are available for the exercise.

Deployment and Execution: Once the planning and preparation phase is complete, the team will deploy the necessary resources and begin the exercise. In this phase, the team will simulate a real-world cyber attack scenario and execute their response plan.

The participating team members will work together to identify and respond to the attack, using their individual expertise and tools to mitigate the impact of the attack and restore normal operations.

Evaluation and Debriefing: After the live fire exercise is complete, the participating team will take part in an evaluation and debriefing session. In this phase, the team (along with the instructor who has been monitoring the team’s performance throughout the exercise) will assess their performance, identify areas for improvement, and develop an action plan to address any weaknesses or gaps in their response plan.

The team will also document the results of the exercise and use this information to improve their response plan for future incidents.

Overall, the participating team is essential to the success of a live fire exercise on a cyber range, and their collaboration and coordination are key to responding effectively to real-world cyber threats.