Cyber Storm V 2016

The moment a U.S. official pressed a computer key, dozens of security experts who gathered in an underground control room girded themselves for a cyberattack – a drill meant to thwart the kinds of intrusions that have recently crippled health networks and retail giants.

The Cyber Storm weeklong event run by the Homeland Security Department and hosted by the U.S. Secret Service is now a decade old. But officials say this week’s exercises are becoming more important as both the government and private sector have reeled from breaches of personal data.

More than 1,000 U.S. cybersecurity professionals are participating in – and testing how well they respond to – a mock attack, said Gregory Touhill, a Homeland Security Department deputy assistant secretary for cybersecurity protection. They’ll be working together for three days in Washington and across the nation.

“Retail and health care have been in the headlines – and, frankly, in the crosshairs for a lot of criminals,” Touhill said Tuesday. Household names like Target Corp., The Home Depot, UCLA Health Systems and Anthem Inc. have all faced recent cyberattacks that compromised millions of their customers’ data.

U.S. officials wouldn’t detail the attack scenarios unfolding this week because they said it would tip off the drill’s participants. But they said their event has one, overarching scenario, with roughly 1,000 smaller events – spurred by a phone call, an email or a news article – that could be indicators of an looming cyberattack.