CyberCity gives hackers skills needed to prevail in cyber warfare

Air Force cyber warriors are getting ready to learn how to do battle in cyberspace against hostile actors who would disrupt critical infrastructure by working in a virtual city that has all of the trappings of modern-day, computer-based life, including e-mail, passwords, online social networking and WiFi, reports The Washington Post.

The CyberCity concept was designed by New Jersey security services provider Counter Hack, the story said. The concept is akin to the one in which the military created mock towns in the desert in which to train troops bound for Iraq. The CyberCity even boasts a scale model of the town that is used to reinforce the consequences of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure, which can put lives at risk.

CyberCity is representative of a trend in military cyber training in which personnel are learning not merely how to clean up and fix things after powerful cyberattacks, but how to be proactive from the standpoint of defending against them and, at the minimum, learn to hold their own against brazen cyberattacks, the story said. 

CyberCity is just of many virtual cyber environments, which are called cyber ranges or test beds, that have been created by the military, private-sector and academia to deal with the daunting security challenges posed by cyberspace in which millions of attacks are hurled at a wide range of targets each day. 

The largest and most impressive of these virtual training grounds in existence is the four-year-old  National Cyber Range, which was built by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It has cost about $130 million since 2008, the story said. To date the military researchers have conducted seven large-scale experiments on the cyber range.

The wide array of companies and institutions building cyber ranges must try to replicate a portion of the massive computer system and user base that exists in the world today, the story said. More than 2 billion people currently interact with at least 12 billion computers and devices, the story said.

The Air Force, by using the CyberCity model, is seeking to keep up with shifting threats from hostile forces that include criminals, terrorists and nation-states, the story said.

The team that built CyberCity used the equivalent power of about 50 computers, and also servers in a data center near Washington, D.C., that maintains records for the military and intelligence communities, the story said. The goal, team members said, is to give the cyber warriors keyboard experience in thwarting cyberattacks that would harm the United States.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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