Cyber ranges are all the rage at these universities


As cybersecurity professionals prepare to cash in more than ever in 2018, universities around the country are exploring the most effective paths for students to take to join their ranks.

For many, cyber ranges seem to be the answer. The specially equipped computer labs or virtual centers provide test environments for users to explore and practice cybersecurity scenarios and skills, often providing certification and hands-on experience that can’t be practiced efficiently outside of a controlled environment.

“You can’t [practice cybersecurity situations] on the school’s network,” David Raymond, director of the Virginia Cyber Range and deputy director of Virginia Tech University’s IT Security Lab, told EdScoop, “because most of the things that happen [in cybersecurity testing] are going to be malicious — you’re attacking or defending systems — and you want to do that in an isolated network environment that is not part of the school network or the internet. So the idea of a cyber range is that you create this isolated network environment where folks can do these hands-on cybersecurity tasks practicing for when they do it in real life.”

The Virginia Cyber Range is entirely state-funded and based out of Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center, but largely operates as a virtual center that K-12 and higher ed classrooms in Virginia can log onto and access an ever-growing curriculum of cybersecurity lessons. Agencies and industry organizations can also schedule training and use the environments that the cyber range provides.

The Virginia Cyber Range began offering classes in just January of last year, but it’s one of many university-connected ranges popping up across the country.

Augusta University

Situated on the Augusta University campus, the second phase of construction for the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training began in early January of this year. The first phase is slated to open in July and, upon the completion of the second phase in December, Augusta will have established one of the largest cyber training facilities in the United States.

At about 330,000 square feet, the center — which is being constructed by the Georgia Technology Authority and is a partnership between multiple state and local agencies, universities and businesses — will be available to academic, industry and government officials. An on-site training ground will be available for Augusta students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity-related programs, such as information technology, computer science and intelligence and security.

University of Central Arkansas

A $500,000 grant from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education will provide for the University of Central Arkansas to develop the state’s first cyber range for students.

The range will operate as the first “educational” cyber range in the region, with curricula for K-12 and higher ed students available. The grant, announced in October, will help facilitate skills for students seeking the university’s new cybersecurity degree launching this fall.

Regent University

Regent University, one of the few private institutions in the country with a cyber range, opened its 3,000-square-foot facility in Virginia Beach in October 2017. The range, built with Cyberbit technology, will primarily train cybersecurity professionals and industry teams, but the university plans to dedicate at least 25 percent of the facility to undergraduate and graduate programs at Regent.

“We want to make sure we contribute in a significant way to minimizing the gap in the workforce, the tremendous gap in cybersecurity positions filled,” Gerson Moreno-Riaño, executive vice president for academic affairs, said.

Wayne State University

The cyber range at Wayne State University in Warren, Michigan, offers classes, applications testing and workshops to organizations through partnerships with the Merit Network, the Advance Michigan Defense Collaborative and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The Wayne State University Cyber Range Hub is one of three cyber training facilities in Michigan, along with Oakland University in Rochester and Pinckney High School in Pinckney. All three are considered equal parts of the Michigan Cyber Range, which is an unclassified private cloud operated by the Merit Network that serves to provide cybersecurity education and certification throughout Michigan.

University of West Florida

The University of West Florida’s Center for Cybersecurity, in partnership with cyber simulations company Metova CyberCents, is currently building a cyber range open to industry, government and academic partners. The range, according to the website, will provide tests for “ethical hacking and penetration testing, computer and network security, critical infrastructure and industrial control systems security, Internet of Things security, defensive cyberspace operations and cyber war gaming.” It’s set to launch in October 2018.

Grand Canyon University

The for-profit Grand Canyon University partnered with nonprofit Arizona Cyber Warfare Range, or AZCWR, to open up a cyber range on GCU’s campus in the Phoenix area in November 2017. The 4,500-square-foot center is AZCWR’s second and is free to the public. GCU President Brian Mueller has said he hopes that the center will help GCU become a premier cybersecurity destination for students, complementing the university’s master’s program in cybersecurity.