Belgian universities embark on cybercrisis exercises

Davina Luyten

Communications Officer @ Belnet
Tue, 05/14/2024 - 15:27

What if your organisation's IT systems are hit by a cyber attack? How do you make a crisis team work well together? And how do you communicate to external parties about a ransomware attack? With the support of Belnet, several Belgian universities recently organised an exercise in their organisations to test how prepared they are for a cybercrisis.

It has been proven that organisations that conduct crisis exercises on a regular basis are better able to manage a potential cybercrisis and mitigate its effects. 

Crisis exercises come in many forms. For an initial exercise, the tabletop format is well suited; this involves bringing all stakeholders in your organisation around the table and letting them manage a fictitious crisis in relative calm. 

Training programme

To help Belgian universities get started, Belnet organised a training programme between November 2023 and April 2024. For this, we could count on the cooperation and expertise of the Centre for Cybersecurity (CCB), SURF (the Dutch research and education network) and Deloitte. 

The training programme was very well received. All Belgian universities registered for the workshops, which introduced participants to the various aspects of crisis management over three sessions and prepared them to organise and lead a tabletop exercise themselves at the IT or strategic level. 

After the sessions, they were ready to further develop their scenario based on their specific objectives and work out the necessary 'injects' to make the course of the crisis as realistic as possible. Participants were also trained to observe and evaluate the tabletop exercise so that they could subsequently identify their strengths and areas for improvement in a structured manner. 

Sharing lessons learned 

This was followed by a debriefing session where representatives from different universities came to explain to each other how they structured their exercise and what they learned from it. Belnet itself also held a crisis exercise in March 2024 and came to share its lessons learned with the community.  

Laurent Winckers, KULeuven


Laurent Winckers and Kris Hermans from KU Leuven took on the role of exercise leaders and they were pleased with how the workshops went: 

The training programme gave us the tools and the necessary encouragement to work on a cybercrisis exercise for the ICTS team of KU Leuven. The exercise itself was seen as very valuable by the participants and allowed us to identify our areas for improvement and some quick wins.

Interested in conducting a cybercrisis exercise yourself?

Get in touch with us and we'll keep you posted on our future crisis management initiatives.

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