Financial Crisis Exercise at RSA 2016


This year, at the RSA Conference, held in San Francisco from February 29 – March 4, Fox-IT was asked to host a financial cyber crisis table top exercise for the Learning Labs portion of the conference.

This was a great opportunity for us to showcase some of what Fox-IT does for companies:  training and aiding companies in incident response. Our exercise provided an opportunity to address a cyber threat scenario in an interactive and collaborative tabletop exercise.

Goliath National Bank

RSA_2The exercise took two hours to complete, tracking down discrepancies in the balance sheets of one Goliath National Bank (GNB), a prominent (fictitious) retail bank in the (fictitious) European country of Ramul. The exercise was designed to:

  • elicit constructive discussion as participants examine and resolve problems
  • identify where existing approaches need to be refined
  • establish relationships and share information with other organizations & partners
  • raise the awareness of the security community about challenges when dealing with a cyber crisis

The exercise was designed as a paper-based exercise with a facilitated discussion of a scripted scenario, where planners and players sit together in one room for the exercise execution.

Overall the session was very popular. There were a lot more people queuing up for the session than there was place for during the session. The attendees that did make it in, were very engaged.

Real life role playing

Each team distributed roles such as CIO, CISO, HR Director, PR Director, General Counsel or IT director. Reflecting the wide variety of attendees at RSA, we were delighted to discover that many of the roles were represented by players who had these roles in real life.

RSA_3Teams played in rounds where new information about an incident was revealed in every turn. The attendees had to pick their next steps and the closer they were with the ideal scenario, the more points they scored.

As crisis teams work through serious events, there is often partial information and there are unclear causes of events and unclear future effects. Therefore, war gaming and cyber crisis table top sessions are required on a regular basis for the crisis management team to gain experience in this field of expertise.

Restoring operations

The most difficult phase of the Learning Lab (as well as in a real life incidents) is the moment a crisis team receives the details about how the incident took place. From that moment in time the team has to switch from focusing on ‘identifying the root cause’ to ‘restoring operations’. They must find a healthy balance wherein the investigation continues, but the ‘restore operations’ priority becomes the most important. We can call this moment between investigation and mitigation an ‘impasse moment’. In order to make the right call, the crisis management team should be able to look at the incident from a helicopter view and come to a clear decision with regards to the next steps, by taking into account the investigation findings, business interests and potential future consequences related to the incident.

Fox-IT’s cyber crises exercises

Fox-IT regularly hosts cyber crisis exercises. Ranging from high-level tabletop sessions where an organizations’ crisis team is involved down to detailed, multi-day, technical challenges for computer emergency response teams and other IT personnel that is involved in a crisis. Whether you want a first introduction into crisis management, or want to train your crisis team periodically, our seasoned experts are able to help.

Would you like to know how we can help you to improve your organization’s resiliency? Please contact Rombert Anjema from FoxAcademy, tel. +31 (0)15 284 79 99, e-mail fox@fox-it.com

Kevin Jonkers, Manager Forensics & Incident Response at Fox-IT, Sarah Brown, Principal Cyber Security Expert at Fox-IT and Krijn de Mik, Principal Cyber Security Expert at Fox-IT