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To Buy or to Build a Cyber Range? That is the Question!

Distance learning is likely here to stay yet today’s cyber educators still need to find ways to meaningfully connect with their students during these socially-distant times. Cyber educators can effectively enrich student remote learning with hands-on cyber ranges. To actualize these goals to create immersive, engaging learning environments, educators must decide whether to build or buy a cyber range—yet it can be a significant decision to weigh by yourself.

Circadence’s Josh Selfe provided tips and much-needed context on cyber ranges in his presentation at the virtual 2020 Virginia Cyber Education Conference to help answer the question…to buy or to build a cyber range? For teachers, curriculum developers and superintendents grappling with this decision, here are a few highlights from his presentation to help make your decision a little easier.

First off, cyber ranges have many uses.

  • Testing –Test that critical production systems are not vulnerable in an isolated and safe way.
  • Research – Conduct research on various types of cyber threats such as malware
  • Evaluation – Take a hard look at various cybersecurity solutions and compare their performance
  • Learning – Support remote cyber learning and growth of cyber skills using active, hands-on exercises in ranges

If you’re going to build a cyber range, you need to think about a few important components that are necessary.

  • Infrastructure: A data center or access to your organization’s public cloud tenant
  • A team to Manage Your Infrastructure: A mix of expertise in networking, data storage, security, virtualization, containerization, cloud architecture, resource capacity planning, logging & analytics, etc.
  • Front-and-Back End Developers: Provide a seamless registration and log-in experience for your students to access learning securely and with ease. Also, you’ll need to integrate the range into your Learning Management Solution (LMS).
  • Support Desk: Bugs and defects happen. You will need a systematized process to capture defects, communicate resolutions, and maintenance downtimes.
  • Cybersecurity Experts: They must know everything an IT or cloud architect knows + the vulnerabilities associated with the technologies. Additionally, experience in scenario design is a must to create net new learning activities for users.
  • Instructors for Feedback & Grading: When students are executing tasks, they need guidance and the ability to receive immediate feedback.

If building a cyber range isn’t the best solution for you, there are available cyber ranges to buy that have all these components listed above. Circadence’s Project Ares offers quality, scalability and flexibility with a hands-on, active cyber learning solution. With Project Ares, students can receive all the benefits of training on a cyber range immediately with:

  • lesson plan topics built-in
  • an active and engaging learning experience via gamification
  • goal achievement with leaderboard tracking
  • task completion
  • increased learning retention

Project Ares is designed under a subscription-based model and it addresses all stages of the kill-chain offensive and defensive practices that a real cyber practitioner would use in their day-to-day job duties. A student can participate in team play or individual learning through foundational or specialized scenarios and will be exposed to threat emulations such as phishing, botnets, ransomware, malware and more.

Our scenarios learning outcomes are aligned to NICE/NIST work role framework, which ensures we are providing industry-standard and best practices. 

It’s a big decision to make to build or buy a cyber range and we hope some of the info above will help determine your best course of action. If building a cyber range isn’t in the best route for you, but you want a robust cyber learning journey, Project Ares can deliver an easy solution that aligns to your existing cyber course curriculum by layering in a gamified, hands-on learning component that make the remote, hybrid, or in-classroom experience engaging and fun.

For more information schedule a conversation with us. We’d love to talk about how a cyber range can meet your needs.

Photo by Ryan Quintal  on Unsplash

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