WHAT ARE CYBER RANGES?
Cyber ranges were initially developed by government agencies looking to better train their cyber operators on new skills and techniques. To do this, a physical range or ranges were installed on-premise. Cyber range providers built representations of actual networks, systems, and tools that helped cyber professionals safely train in virtual, secure environments without compromising the agency’s operational network infrastructure.
Today, cyber ranges are used in the cybersecurity sector to effectively train IT professionals in all industries and help improve defenses against cyber–attacks. As technology advanced, cyber range training advanced as well, both in scope and potential. More on this later.
The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education reports that cyber ranges provide:
- An environment where new ideas can be tested safely and teams and work to solve complex cyber problems
- Performance-based learning and assessment
- A simulated environment where teams can work together to improve teamwork and team capabilities
- Real-time feedback
- Simulate on-the-job experience
Most cyber ranges come in one of two forms: A network environment without pre-programmed content; or a network environment with prescriptive content that may or may not be relevant to a user’s industry. Either cyber range type limits the learner’s ability to develop enriched skill sets beyond what their specific work role may dictate.
UNDERSTANDING & EVOLVING CYBER RANGES IN A BOX
Typically, Cyber range in a box has been a collection of virtual machines hosted on an on-premise system. However, Circadence has taken the concept of a cyber range in a box and placed it the cloud to better scale cyber training. We lovingly call this CyRaaS, or Cyber Range-as-a-Service, which is integrated into our Project Ares cyber learning platform.
Instead of purchasing a physical set of machines to take up space in a room, virtual machines exist in the cloud and can be accessed by more professionals from any location who want to train persistently and develop cyber skills. The cloud is recognized as one of the most secure spaces to house network components (and physical infrastructure). To ensure cyber ranges spin up environments quickly, deliver the latest training content, and engage users in productive training activities, accessing cyber ranges in the cloud is the latest and greatest approach for professionals training in ‘sandbox’ environments.
By offering cloud based, cyber range in a box services to support cyber training in Project Ares, we are able to deliver more relevant tools and technologies to help professionals gain the best cybersecurity training possible. The service allows Project Ares to emulate industry-relevant network configurations within learning activities that help trainees practice defensive tactics. Cloud-based cyber ranges also offer hands-on keyboard experience with real world tools and emulated network traffic to reflect the authentic feeling of an actual cyber–attack.
Advances in Artificial Intelligence and machine learning allow us to use cloud ranges to their full potential by tracking patterns in training data to reveal player learning progression with minimal human intervention and oversight. Those patterns are then used to inform the recommendations of an in-game advisor (Athena) that has chat bot functionality so players can get help on cyber range training activities in the platform. Further, cloud-based cyber range training gives security professionals better predictive capabilities when defending and anticipating threats—and according to Microsoft, even “improve the efficacy of cybersecurity, the detection of hackers, and prevent attacks before they occur.”
GAMIFIED CYBER RANGES
Not only have we taken physical cyber ranges and placed them in the cloud but we’ve added in elements of gamification to further drive the effectiveness of cyber training. With many studies touting the benefits of gamification in learning, it only makes sense that cyber ranges come equipped with sets of gamified elements (e.g. leaderboards, scoring mechanisms, points, badges, levels, etc.). Project Ares has a series of cyber learning games that teach foundational cyber concepts and terms, battle rooms that teach tools, tactics, and procedures, and team-based missions that bring learning full circle when players are tasked with defending against a realistic cyber threat scenario. This level of cyber learning is done in the cloud so professionals can work together from anywhere in the world to collaborate and defeat modern-day attacks.
We hope this post helped you understand the true potential of cyber ranges in the cloud and how they are evolving today to automate and augment cyber workforce training and learning.