The U.S. Air Force has paid a security firm to build a virtual town to prepare government hackers for battles in cyberspace, Robert O’Harrow Jr. of the Washington Post reports.”CyberCity” has a population of more than 15,000 along with a bank, hospital, power plant, water tower, train station and coffee shop (with free WiFi). Computers simulate communications as well as the operation of e-mail, heating systems, the railroad and an online social networking site called FaceSpace.
The town is designed to prepare government hackers for cyberattacks on America’s critical infrastructure, which is vulnerable because it has become so interconnected over the past four decades that it’s too complex to secure.
“All of our systems are connected together — our finance systems, our power generation systems, our social media sites, and so on,” Dr. Mike Lloyd, Chief Technology Officer at RedSeal Networks, told BI. “We’re interconnected here much more than anywhere else in the world. And that means if this stuff is fragile, it is much more fragile than everywhere else.”
CyberCity began two years ago, around the time that the Stuxnet virus—built by the U.S. and Israel—attacked the infrastructure of Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities and sent almost 1,000 centrifuges spinning out of control.
Lloyd, who spends his days helping organisations understand how they can be attacked, noted that “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” and “Very simple stones can break our glass windows.”
That’s why the military—having already fired the first salvo of the global cyberwar—is building numerous virtual environments to run cyber experiments and learn how to defend against a “cyber Pearl Harbor” or even the millions of cyberattacks that occur every day.
“The problem is the bad guys are getting better much faster than we are,” Ed Skoudis, founder of the security firm that is developing the project, told the Post. “We don’t want to fall further behind on this.”
Tony Romm of Politico reports that cyber cuts were “not even considered” as the Pentagon prepares for more than $480 billion in reductions over 10 years, and spending on cybersecurity products and services could reach $14 billion by 2017.
Cyber City specifically deals with infrastructure, so cyber soldiers train with operations such as raising a railroad drawbridge to prevent a train carrying a weapon of mass destruction from entering the city or hacking into FaceSpace to pinpoint hackers who have hijacked Navy vessel or gaining control of a network so that a foreign agent doesn’t hack into the hospital and alter medications.
“In the future, nearly all military missions will have a cyber component,” Skoudis said.”Fingers-on-keyboard experience is vital.”
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