In March of this year, a bad actor hacked into a Florida water treatment plant’s network, took control of a computer and added chemicals to the city’s water. Fortunately, the hacker exited the system before any severe harm occurred. Nonetheless, this cyber event alerted officials to the danger hackers pose to public health and safety, especially when they impact critical infrastructure like transit, electricity, hospitals and water.
That is where the TEEX Cyber Readiness Center’s (CRC) new Cyber Training and Exercise Range (CTER) comes in. Created in conjunction with the Texas A&M Cybersecurity Center and with funding from the Texas A&M University System, the cyber range offers a virtual environment that simulates cyber-attacks for training purposes. The fully mobile range, comprised of 50 laptops connected to a central computer network, only requires physical space and a power source. This teaching tool provides a hands-on experience not often seen in cyber exercises and offers training that will become increasingly critical as cyberattacks are on the rise.
Instructors will use the range in PER-371, Cybersecurity Incident Response for IT Personnel (CIRITP), a three-day course in which students learn cybersecurity theories and work in groups to defend a network against simulated attacks. The class was developed in 2015 as part of a Continuing Training Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Training and Education Division (NTED) and is administered by the National Emergency Response and Recovery Training Center (NERRTC). Because of this, the course is fully funded and offered at no cost to participants. In addition to PER-371, TEEX instructors are developing a vulnerability assessment class, in which trainees learn to scan networks for weaknesses and implement measures to protect networks from attacks.
Andrew Jarrett, Applied Cybersecurity Program Manager in TEEX’s Business and Computer Solutions Division, explains the significance of these courses, saying, “This is a big deal in smaller jurisdictions and schools that may not have funding for a cybersecurity department. Instead, they can take a few of their IT personnel and develop their security skills, so they are not as easily victimized.”
In addition to these courses, TEEX also offers non-technical cyber training for community members. For more information on TEEX’s Cyber Readiness Center, the Cyber Training and Exercise Range, and TEEX’s cyber courses, please visit teex.org/cyber or cyberready.org/cyber-training-range.