BALTIMORE — A first-of-its-kind public cyber security training facility, the Baltimore Cyber Range, operated by security firm Cyberbit and designed to simulate large-scale virtual networks and replicate attacks opened Thursday.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, and representatives from a consortium consisting of Cyberbit and its Israeli-based parent company Elbit Systems [ESLT] ,and Electronic Technology Associates (ETA) were on hand to officially open the center which will act as a center for cyber security training and testing of private companies’ network resiliency. The project was first announced in September 2016 following Hogan’s return from a cyber-focused trade mission to Israel.

Md. Gov. Larry Hogan, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and more cut the ribbon at the opening of the Baltimore Cyber Range. Photo: Matthew Beinart.
Md. Gov. Larry Hogan, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and more cut the ribbon at the opening of the Baltimore Cyber Range. Photo: Matthew Beinart.

“Maryland really has become the cyber capital of America. The premier cyber-related agencies are all headquartered in Maryland. Military installations are located here in our state. We’ve got the NSA, Cyber Command, National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. There are more than 74 federal laboratories in Maryland, which more than twice the number of any other state,” Hogan said to the crowd gathered at the opening. “Baltimore is quickly becoming a hotbed of cyber security activity. And that is even more apparent thanks to the vision and the investment of ETA and Cyberbit. This Baltimore Cyber Range is the very first live, stand-alone, hands-on cyber security training center in the United States. It will provide the most up-to-date cutting edge training in the realistic setting so that our cyber workforce is equipped to respond to threats quickly and more efficiently.”

The facility allows prospective entrants into the cyber workforce an opportunity to deal with simulated cyber threats in a controlled virtual environment. Cyberbit incorporated its experience in training the newest members of the Israeli Defense Force on how to protect their country’s critical infrastructure into the range’s method for teaching vital cyber defense skills, according to General Manager Stephen Thomas, who founded the company’s North American division in April 2016.

“The origin of the range was really for the Israeli Defense Force. When you’re in Israel and you go into the IDF, technically you’re going to have just left high school. What the IDF needed was a way to pivot people from never having operated in security operations center. You can’t just suddenly go in and put a high schooler with maybe 6 months of training and put them in charge of protecting critical networks,” Thomas told Defense Daily. “That’s the concept of the range. It takes theory and puts them into a practical application of the range where they’re really tested as individual but also as a team.”

Cyberbit partnered with ETA to build the Israeli method into a public facility to be utilized by businesses in Baltimore and D.C. to test the strength of their networks within the safety of a virtualized system.

“It turned out that Cyberbit had developed a technology where they stored the threats they see while providing the security to the infrastructure in a system that they call the attack generator. They, in turn, take that capability and attach it to another device they developed called a network simulator. That network simulator can sync with anybody’s network virtually. It can take those threats, put them in the system, and see what happens in real-time without damaging your own network,” ETA CEO Bruce Spector said in his remarks. “That is a revolutionary way to train. That’s what the governor had us bring back from Israel. That’s what the Baltimore Cyber Range is all about.”

Representatives of the Baltimore Cyber Range consortium are anticipating businesses to use their facility as training ground to test employee’s cyber resilience skills and the effectiveness of their own firewalls.

“The Cyberbit technology we’re introducing today provides the range of capability that’s very unique; to provide hyperrealistic simulation and training. It really is a state-of-the-art integrated environment that allows us to expose the most experienced practitioners to real world threats,” President of the Baltimore Cyber Range consortium Michael Doyle said. “The range is really all about expanding the knowledge base, in particular to the expert level. It’s about providing real world hands-on experience. You can do things on the range you couldn’t do on your own network. In a nutshell, the range generates a complete virtual enterprise environment. It includes Linux and Windows servers. It has firewalls. It basically has everything that’s required to simulate a real world cyber attack.”