The Regional Cyber Defence Centre (hereinafter RCDC) was officially established in the beginning of July, it will operate as an element of the National Cyber Security Centre under the Ministry of National Defence. Col Romualdas Petkevičius, who was appointed director of the RCDC on July 14 says he will seek to make the RCDC become a regional practical cooperation platform that will help prevent cyber-attacks on the countries’ critical infrastructure in the nearest year. In the following interview Col R. Petkevičius presents the RCDC vision and nearest work plans.
We would like to begin the conversation with a presentation of the Regional Cyber Defence Centre. Why has such an institution been established and what are the main directions of its activity?
The RCDC was born as a joint initiate of Lithuania and the United States in order to fill a gap in the multilateral practical cooperation in cyber defence, as well as to strengthen the capacity of Lithuania and regional partners to ensure cybersecurity of critical state infrastructure. RCDC activities will encompass three major areas: cyber threat analysis, information exchange and practical recommendations, and arrangement of exercises for critical infrastructure managers and scientific research, as well as practical application of its results. The main focus will be on the countries of the region and protection of their critical infrastructure.
The establishment of the RCDC has great benefits to our state too. First, it shows our strong leadership in cybersecurity. Lithuania has the fourth position among the European countries in the Global Cybersecurity Index (GCI) published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) a month ago. RCDC activity will further deepen our knowledge, skills and competencies in protecting national critical infrastructure and increasing resilience to hybrid threats.
There already is a cyber centre of excellence in Estonia in the region. How is the RCDC different from the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence?
The NATO Centre of Excellence in Estonia is focussed on academic work, research of the legal framework of the area of cyber security, its regulation and application, training, standardized courses and exercises. Its activities are oriented towards protecting NATO and allied structures and systems. And the main objective of the RCDC is enhancement of daily practical cooperation. The center which is beginning its operation in Lithuania will focus on strengthen resilience to hybrid threats in the region and practical cooperation, exchange of information, analysis and practical recommendations. Even though the RCDC scope of activities will encompass defence structures, its main area of responsibility is enhancement of resilience in entities providing critical services of the state and their cyber defence.
What was the basis for foreign partner choice?
The United States is one of Lithuania’s central partners in defence and security. The longstanding bilateral cooperation includes numerous areas and the RCDC will fill in the shortfall in the exchange of experience in the area of practical cyber defence. The most extensive contribution to the development of the RCDC is now made by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, our close partner of 28 years. We have plans to extend the number of U.S. partners to which end visits to the United States and meetings will be held this autumn.
Georgia and Ukraine, some of the strongest members of the European Union Eastern Partnership Programme with whom there are quite many ongoing bilateral cybersecurity projects, are the other two partners within the RCDC. Their practical cybersecurity experience is also of value.
What are the most immediate RCDC work plans?
A very intense semester is coming, work is scheduled both, in Lithuania and abroad. To begin with, an international MoU with partners is planned to be signed in late summer: it will regulate all RCDC activities. The second rotation of foreign partners is expected in the autumn. The pilot project of the first rotation received positive reviews, so we will continue developing the activity. We also have further development of cooperation with the U.S. in our plans. We are looking to starting communication with the U.S. Department of Energy that has an abundance of valuable experience in cyber defence. We are also planning to actively engage in the cyber defence exercise “Cyber Shield” annually held in Lithuania, and to arrange first cybersecurity training courses in partner nations.
Where does the RCDC financing come from?
RCDC activities are funded from the state budget of the Republic of Lithuania and U.S. support funds.
Thank you for the conversation!
Colonel Romualdas Petkevičius joined the Lithuanian Armed Forces in 1992. He held a number of responsible positions in the Lithuanian Armed Forces and the Ministry of National Defence over nearly three decades of service. In 2000-2003 he was in charge of the MoD NATO Department, a subdivision responsible for interaction with Alliance structures and preparation to join NATO. In 2004 Col R. Pektevičius was appointed Defence Attaché of Lithuania to the United States and Canada, in 2008 – the Senior National Representative at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). Colonel was also the National Liaison Officer to NATO HQ SACT. For the past three years Col R. Petkevičius headed the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence.
Photo credit: Eimantas Genys (LMA)