Purple Lumi, NDA’s five-day defence practice against cyber-attacks – Government Computing Network


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Conducted in February 2020, Exercise Purple Lumi was a five-day practice run in which technical and managerial staff of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) rehearsed their defence skills during simulated cyber-attacks.

The Purple Lumi exercise provided a good example of how institutions such as the Climate Science Research Partnership (CSRP), can work alongside others in the sector, learning from each other and practising collective defence skills.

Purple Lumi was conducted for four benefits: operational, efficiency, opportunities and regulatory.

Operational: Purple Lumi enhanced the NDA’s operational resilience by making it defend against a series of simulated cyber-attacks, which required different sections of the NDA to come together, share information and defeat the enemy. Participants learnt how an aggressor would try and identify chinks in their cyber defence and exploit any weaknesses found in the digitally interconnected sector. While being tested on their detection and response capabilities, participants also gathered better awareness regarding others’ responses against such attacks in the sector.

Efficiency: Purple Lumi attracted various staff from all over the civil nuclear sector (fuel fabrication, fuel storage and electricity generation), reflecting the interconnectedness of systems. The five-day exercise tested NDA staff on a virtual environment called ‘cyber range’, which is able to replicate a nuclear facility’s operations with respect to IT and industrial control systems. Although these systems cannot be taken offline to be used for testing, as they need to be constantly functioning for the operational safety of nuclear facilities, they could be replicated in the NDA training facility at West Cumbria’s Energus and then digitally linked to the cyber range of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in Tallinn, Estonia. A similar simulated range to be managed for any other single business could prove quite uneconomical. However, the investment has been justified for the NDA, with its eight businesses and 17 sites, along with the broader nuclear sector, as it was found to be cost-effective.

Opportunities: The exercise brought strategic staff from across the sector together to share experiences and collaborate, while simultaneously creating further prospects to strengthen mutual resilience.

Regulatory: Purple Lumi also brought together regulatory authorities such as the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), who were able to contribute and better understand their own response on how to manage a cyber incident.

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