My Thoughts On Online Exercises

Posted on 14 September

In today's bulletin, I share some thoughts on conducting exercises online.

This week I conducted an online exercise and it got me thinking about what the benefits and downsides are of running exercises online:

  1. It is very easy to conduct one as most incident management teams are virtual at the moment and responding to COVID-19, so carrying out an exercise will be very similar to what they are doing at the moment.
  2. All the participants being online avoids the issues of some people being online and some not. Often the people online get forgotten about and they find it difficult to follow what is going on and to participate, especially if two conversations are going on at the same time. With video conferencing, you can see the faces of all participants, while if you are using the room’s video conferencing it is more difficult to see people unless the organisation is using a very expensive system.
  3. People are now used to video conferencing and so having a discussion is a lot more natural than it was before.
  4. What you lose out on when you run an exercise online are the conversations which take place between team meetings. If people break out and have one-to-one meetings, it feels a little intrusive to ask to attend and observe their conversation.
  5. If you are an umpire or exercise director, I think it is a good idea to mute yourself and switch off your video camera so you are fairly invisible during an exercise and people can forget that you are there!
  6. In the exercise we carried out this week, we used email injects which worked well but equally messaging systems, such as Teams or Slack could be used if the exercise staff could get access to them as an outsider. The only danger of email injects is that they get sent to someone outside the exercise and then they get mistaken for a real event.
  7. During the exercise, we didn't use our Social Media and Media simulator MITS, but in the Managing and Preparing for Cyber Incidents training I delivered earlier in the week we did use the system and people were happy switching between platforms and observing what was happening in MITS and then responding.
  8. Feedback is easy as everyone participating is on the same platform and feedback forms can be filled in using an online survey tool.

By way of a conclusion, it is perfectly possible to run exercises online and if teams are already online then this is definitely the right place to run them.