Computer Information System Security (CISS) students from all over Washington state will soon be able to practice cyber security exercises and test cyber range technologies in a controlled virtual environment when Western Washington University’s Poulsbo location opens the state’s first ever cyber range this fall.
A cyber range is a virtual environment that is used for cyberwarfare training and cyber technology development. It provides tools that help strengthen the stability, security and performance of cyberinfrastructure and IT systems used by government and military agencies. Cybersecurity is a growing field, with professionals in huge demand due to a projected 1.5-million trained-employee labor shortage through at least 2019, according to an industry source.
The decision to build the cyber range was based on the rationale that the CISS program needed labs in both Bellingham and Poulsbo, but instead of creating two different ones, a cyber range could support both locations.
“This meant building the ability to use the lab securely from a distance to allow cyber security exercises, such as penetration testing and virus dissection, to be conducted in a way where there was no risk of creating problems on the network,” said Erik Fretheim, program director for Western’s Computer Information Systems Security program.
This cyber range will allow students to practice handling cyber-attacks or try new techniques to stop them in a virtual environment. Typical exercises may include securing servers, setting up and testing firewalls, virus testing and analysis, or securing a website.
The cyber range is being funded from allocations by the state and donations from the computer industry, and will be one of only nine educational ranges in the nation.
“We are also working on creating partnerships between the range and private companies, that will provide resources to help students learn cyber security skills, while at the same time companies will benefit from the opportunity to test their equipment in a contained environment,” Fretheim said.
They are currently gathering equipment and waiting for the space designated to the cyber range to be upgraded, in hopes that the initial capability to go online will be in mid-September.
“As I discussed this approach with my colleagues from other schools, they quickly recognized the advantages, and that we could create a shared resource that could do far more than what any of us could create individually,” Fretheim said. “As a result, we are creating the cyber range to be useful for all colleges and universities in the state.”
For more information on the cyber range, contact Erik Fretheim at (360) 650-6879 or Erik.Fretheim@wwu.edu.