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Maryland Airmen, Estonia Build Cyber-Sharing Platform

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Christopher Schepers,
  • 175th WG - Maryland Air National Guard

TALLINN, Estonia – Maryland Air National Guard cyber professionals and their Estonian partners are building an information-sharing platform to defend against cyber threats.

Airmen from the 175th Cyberspace Operations Group, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the Estonian Defense Forces, and Cybernetica, an Estonian cyber company, are collaborating to produce the platform. 

Project Vormsi will enable information exchange and processing between multiple nations. Vormsi also allows for different rules of information exchange that are adaptable depending on whether the cyber environment is peaceful or there are active cyber-attacks.

“The main benefit for both sides is there will be a transatlantic, secure means for sharing cyber threat intelligence in a timely manner through the development of joint procedures and standards,” said Miiko Peris, director of the Estonian Ministry of Defense Department of Innovation. “We are also focusing on getting the cyber message format validated as a NATO standardized agreement. Once that is complete, the entire NATO alliance will benefit from the work of our bilateral project.”

The NATO alliance has no standard message text format for cyberspace-related information. That makes it challenging to share information and the proper automation tools.

“APP-115 includes standards for all other domains but does not include cyber,” said James Reilly, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory cyber message standardization project manager. “NATO Article 5 calls for collective defense, and we need standardization of our cyber data exchange formats to enable collective cyber defense.”

Vormsi is in the fourth year of a projected six-year window for completion of the project, which was slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are just past the midway point of this project, but since 2022 we have had a good tailwind and some of our goals have been met quicker than we expected,” said Peris. “We are looking to finish the minimal viable product by this summer and after that there will be another round of fine-tuning the scope to include more features to the Cyber Message Exchange System.”

Reilly said Project Vormsi has four stages: prototyping, testing/evaluating functionality, testing with operational users, and transitioning the data standard to NATO.

The Maryland Air National Guard and Estonian Defense Force were ideal candidates to lead this charge due to their ongoing cyber relationship through the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.

“The relationship we have built over the years with the cyber professionals in the Estonian Defense Force has been an incredible asset as we move through the process of creating an information-sharing platform that will eventually have benefits to our NATO partners and beyond,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Charles Gruver, 275th Cyberspace Operation Group director of operations. “The work we are doing now will help the United States and our allies exchange cyber information in an efficient and effective manner during peacetime or during active cyber threats.”

The Maryland National Guard and Estonia began their partnership in 1993, at the outset of the 30-year State Partnership Program. The SPP now has 88 partnerships in 100 nations.