To prepare the state of Ohio to counter growing cybersecurity threats, the Ohio Cyber Range Institute hosted a four-day training exercise at the University of Cincinnati.
A team from the Ohio Cyber Reserve, a volunteer force commanded by the state adjutant general, was selected for this pilot exercise to improve their ability to carry out their mission while also building a group from the Ohio Cyber Range Institute to develop a to provide repeatable, customized and challenging exercise and realistic cyber incident problem.
“Ohio is leading the way with an innovative approach to countering cyber threats,” said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio Adjutant General. “Starting with the efforts of the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee more than seven years ago, Ohio has a cyber assortment that schools, governments and businesses can use to conduct cyber testing and training. The Ohio Cyber Reserve, a civilian volunteer force, was formed to provide support to legitimate small governments hit by cyber attacks. This combined effort strengthens cybersecurity and protects critical infrastructure across the state.”
About a quarter of the Ohio Cyber Reserve’s approximately 80 employees attended the training, which began July 14 at UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub.
During the exercise, participants were challenged by multiple simulated malicious actors such as an insider threat, criminal hacking, hacktivist activity, and an advanced persistent threat, with the pace and complexity of malicious events tailored to the team’s performance and achievement of its training objectives.
The reservists actively analyzed simulated activity on a virtual network, the Ohio Cyber Range, utilizing the defensive tools available to all cyber reserve teams.
“This scenario is fairly representative of the types of challenges such a team would need to solve when a cyber incident impacts government services,” said Richard J. Harknett, co-director of the Ohio Cyber Range Institute.
This and future exercises add value through team assessment, the use of a sophisticated Ohio Cyber Range digital training environment, and emulation of a variety of scenarios.
“It is an honor for UC to partner with the State of Ohio and host something as incredibly important as cybersecurity training,” said UC President Neville G. Pinto. “This is a testament to successful efforts to build strong higher education, military and industry partnerships through the Ohio Cyber Range Institute.”
The threat of cyberattacks to government, industry and individuals continues to increase in frequency and impact from multiple attackers with ever-changing objectives, techniques and effectiveness, said Scott Petersen, executive director of UC Digital Futures-Cyber Development. Such cyber attacks can affect many and require the integration of government, industry and academia to be prepared.
This complexity requires constant improvement in technical and operational expertise to secure the cyber ecosystem and recover from cyber incidents, Petersen said. Persistent training and further education are essential.
“Exercises like this are widely recognized as necessary best practice for our nation’s ‘first responders’. They hone participants’ technical skills and forge relationships that are critical for a coordinated response from government and private organizations,” said Petersen.
Ohio has demonstrated innovation and leadership to counter these threats through the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee, which led to the development of the Ohio Cyber Range and Ohio Cyber Reserve. The offering brings resources to improve cyber teams and individuals across the state.
The University of Cincinnati is uniquely positioned to help. UC was selected to develop and administer the Ohio Cyber Range Institute because of its multidisciplinary expertise and proven collaborative approach. One of OCRI’s missions is to administer the nationwide Cyber Range, an integrated platform for cyber education, workforce and economic development that has begun activities in each congressional district in its first year of operation.
OCRI’s four co-chairs come from three UC colleges: College of Engineering and Applied Science, College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services, and College of Arts and Sciences. UC is one of only 18 institutions in the country to be recognized by the National Security Agency as Centers of Academic Excellence in both cyber operations and cyber defense.
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