Czech Republic turns to war-games to build cyber defences

The Czech Republic is carrying out war-gaming exercises with companies to strengthen its critical industries against cyber attacks, supply chain disruption and ownership bids by hostile states such as China and Russia.

The war-games, thought to be the first such contingency exercises in the world, have drawn the attention of Nato allies seeking to protect themselves from aggression in the so-called “grey zone” between peaceful relations and formal armed conflict. Concern about grey zone activities have intensified since a significant hacking campaign against US government systems — attributed to a Russian group — was discovered in December.

Tomas Kopecny, deputy minister for industrial co-operation in the Czech Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces, has started contingency exercises with the country’s five largest defence companies and hopes to expand the programme to other industries including energy, IT, healthcare and food production later this year.

“We see industrial policy as part of not only economic welfare, but geopolitics and also defence and security”, Kopecny told the Financial Times. “This exercise is basically about creating [a] nexus between the military and civilian, between the government and private side.”

Tomas Kopecny, deputy minister for industrial co-operation in the Czech Ministry of Defence © Michal Krumphanzl/CTK/Alamy

He added that the rise of China as a “systemic rival” to the EU meant industry was increasingly on the front line of attempts by foreign investors to steal intellectual property or exert control over competitor companies.

“The very strategy that is being applied by Chinese state-affiliated investors is something that is targeting [Europe’s] critical and strategic technologies,” Kopecny said. “It’s definitely something that is decreasing our capability to defend ourselves, through us losing our technologies that are essential for defence.”

The UK government had to intervene last year to prevent an investor linked to the Chinese state from seizing control of the board of British chipmaker, Imagination Technologies. The FT has also revealed that China is exploring limiting the…