The Michigan Cyber Range: Who, what, when, where and how

Last Friday, November 9, 2012, we launched our new Michigan Cyber Range in Ann Arbor, Michigan. So what is a cyber range and why should you care?

Last Friday, November 9, 2012, we launched our new Michigan Cyber Range in Ann Arbor, Michigan. To get a mental picture of what a cyber range is all about, check out this video that we highlighted at the beginning of our cyber range launch.

Getting to the Michigan Cyber Range ribbon cutting has been a combined effort which we began in the middle of last year. Governor Rick Snyder’s goal was to bring together the public and private sectors in the region, along with help and support from the federal government and academia. The plan was to create a testbed that could be used for training, research, security product verification, “what if” scenarios regarding cyberattacks, and more. Fundraising and building the cross-sector capability has been an ongoing effort for the past fifteen months, and we have finally reached this important milestone. After a state government RFP was issued, we selected Merit Network, Inc. to run the range.

Cyber Range Definitions and Questions:

What is a cyber range? Who needs a cyber range? Where can you go to learn more or to get your technology and security teams some of this advanced training? These are just some of the topics I cover in this blog that points to several other articles and blogs.

I don’t generally point CSO Magazine readers to my Government Technology Magazine blog, which is directed to a much wider technology audience. However, I’m making an exception is this case. Here’s an excerpt from my first blog on this topic which introduced the Michigan Cyber Range:

Almost everyone has heard of a gun range, where people can practice shooting targets under a variety of conditions. Similarly, a “proving ground” has long been established to test and train on military equipment. One example is Aberdeen Proving Ground.

In the same way, a cyber range is a facility that can be used to test and train as individuals and teams on a variety of computer security equipment. A National Cyber Range was set up by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as a national defense testbed for critical security research.  But these facilities are classified and used for military personnel at classified levels. What about the businesses and governments around the country that must defend their networks from attack without secret networks?

The Michigan Cyber Range enables individuals and organizations to develop detection and reaction skills through simulations and exercises. The program offers students and Internet technology professionals a full curriculum of meetings and workshops as well as critical cybersecurity training and awareness tools.

Critical areas that will benefit from the creation of the Michigan Cyber Range include: Infrastructure defense, Homeland Security, criminal justice and law enforcement, academic and educational programs, and small and medium businesses.

Why is a New Michigan Cyber Range Needed?

Most CSO Magazine readers are probably aware that America is outgunned in cyber. So where can security teams go to learn how to defend against complex cyber attacks? Here are some of the early questions and problems that we tried to address with the Michigan Cyber Range:

With over 80% of critical infrastructure owned and operated by the private sector, who is working to answer assist small and medium size businesses in defending those systems and testing defenses in practical ways?

Also, in federal, state and local governments (excluding military networks), we don’t generally have state-of-the-art testing and training facilities to teach our teams the latest threat vectors and cyber tools in a safe manner. We need a capability that is disconnected from operational government networks.

More specifically, what test & research facilities are quipped and available to simulate different advanced malware attack scenarios – without impacting operational networks? Is there a way to bring together world-class training, virtual connectivity, public/private partnerships, available expertise and computer software/hardware reuse into a state-of-the-art cyber lab in order to allow all sectors of the economy to work together and achieve common security goals?

What skills and real-world experience is needed for future cyber jobs? How can we assist our K-12 schools, community colleges, universities and continuing education programs in building these competencies? 

No doubt, this is only the beginning of a lifelong challenge for us; nevertheless, I am confident that standing up this capability is a big step in the right direction.    

What Are Others Saying About This New Cyber Range Development?

Smart Grid News: A training range for cybersecurity? Michigan's got one

“The Michigan Cyber Range isn't really anything like a gun range where people punch neat little holes in paper targets, but its mission is remarkably similar: cybersecurity testing, training and research. Essentially, it's a way to simulate malware attack situations without effecting (or jeopardizing) operating electric grids – practice without causing problems.”

Zero Security: New: Michigan Cyber Range

As stated by the Governor, DTMB Director John Nixon, CIO David Behen and others at the launch, the Michigan Cyber Range enables individuals and organizations to develop detection and reaction skills through simulations and exercises. The program offers students and Internet technology professionals a full curriculum of meetings and workshops as well as critical cybersecurity training and awareness tools.”

Emergency Management: Michigan Launches 'Cyber Range' to Enhance Cybersecurity

“Today in Ann Arbor, Mich., Gov. Rick Snyder cut the ribbon on a cyber training center called the Michigan Cyber Range -- a resource that will prepare cybersecurity professionals in the detection and prevention of cyberattacks in a real-world setting, according to a press release.

The new initiative aims to enhance Michigan’s protection of computer systems and sensitive data by pairing cybersecurity resources -- a full curriculum of meetings and workshops, and critical cybersecurity training and awareness tools -- with hands-on training opportunities. For instance, students can perform lab exercises and out-of-class work that uses the range’s virtual environment and text, video chat and Web conferencing capabilities. The range helps individuals and organizations develop detection and reaction skills through simulations and exercises.”

For more information or to schedule time on the Michigan Cyber Range, contact Merit Network, Inc.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this new cyber range development. 

To comment on this article and other CSO content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter stream.
Insider: Hacking the elections: myths and realities
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.