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SANS launches NetWars CyberCity to train cyber warriors for defense

Simulated attacks teach Cyber Warriors how to defend cyberspace and protect against kinetic effects

Bethesda, MD: SANS has announced NetWars CyberCity, a small-scale city located close by the New Jersey Turnpike complete with a bank, hospital, water tower, train system, electric power grid, and a coffee shop. NetWars CyberCity was developed to teach cyber warriors from the U.S. Military how online actions can have kinetic effects. SANS has defined various missions within CyberCity to help train cyber warriors to defend against online attacks and teach them how to secure a city’s vital physical infrastructure. While NetWars CyberCity itself fits in a six by eight foot area and was created using miniature buildings and houses, the underlying power control systems, hospital software, and other infrastructures are directly from the real world.

“When you lose control of cyberspace, you lose control of the physical world,” said Eric Bassel, director at the SANS Institute. “The threat of kinetic effect is real. We have seen detailed evidence of foreign nations deep inside the computer networks of our financial services companies, manufacturing companies and critical infrastructure. The attacks have been going on for many years, yet we have made only limited strides in fighting them off. With NetWars CyberCity we hope to turn the tables by providing our first-line cyber defenders with the necessary skills and hands-on training to fend off online attacks and regain control of cyberspace.”

Developed in response to a challenge by U.S. Military cyber warriors, NetWars CyberCity is an intense defensive training program organized around missions. “We’ve built over eighteen missions, and each of them challenges participants to devise strategies and employ tactics to thwart computer attacks that would cause significant real-world damage,” commented Ed Skoudis, SANS Instructor and NetWars CyberCity Director.

NetWars CyberCity participants, which include cyber warriors from the Department of Defense and other defenders within the U.S. Government, will be tasked with protecting the city’s critical infrastructure and systems as they come under attack. Cyber warriors will be presented with potential real-world attacks; their job is to defend against them. Missions will include fending off attacks on the city’s power company, hospital, water system and transportation services.

The first NetWars CyberCity missions will begin in December 2012, with a gradual rollout of additional missions as they are completed. Construction on NetWars CyberCity will be completed by March 2013. Missions will typically last between a few hours and a few day