To prepare the State of Ohio to counter growing cybersecurity threats, the Ohio Cyber Range Institute at the University of Cincinnati held a four-day training exercise.
A team from the Ohio Cyber Reservea volunteer force under the command of the State Adjutant General, was selected for this pilot exercise to improve its ability to carry out its mission while developing a group from the Ohio Cyber Range Institute to provide a reproducible, personalized, challenging and realistic cyber incident problem.
“Ohio has led the way with an innovative approach to dealing with cyber threats,” said Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr., Ohio Adjutant General. “Beginning with the efforts of the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee over seven years ago, Ohio has a cyber lineup that schools, governments, and businesses can use to conduct cyber testing and training. The Ohio Cyber Reserve, a civilian volunteer force, was created to assist eligible small governments affected by cyberattacks. These combined efforts strengthen cybersecurity and protect critical infrastructure across the state.
About a quarter of the roughly 80 Ohio Cyber Reserve personnel attended the training exercise that began July 14 at UC 1819 Innovation Center.
During the exercise, participants were challenged by multiple simulated malicious actors such as insider threat, criminal hacking, hacktivist activity, and advanced persistent threat, with the timing and complexity of malicious events tailored. the performance of the team and the achievement of its training objectives.
Reservists actively analyzed simulated activity on a virtual network, the Ohio Cyber Range, using defense tools available to all cyber reservists.
“This scenario is pretty representative of the kinds of challenges such a team would be called upon to solve, when a cyber incident affects government services,” said Richard J. Harknett, co-director of the Ohio Cyber Range Institute.
This and future exercises provide value through team assessment, leveraging a sophisticated digital training environment on the Ohio Cyber Range, and emulating a variety of scenarios.
“It’s an honor for UC to partner with Ohio State and host something as incredibly important as cybersecurity training,” said UC President Neville G Pinto. “This is proof of the successful effort to build strong partnerships between higher education, military and industry through the Ohio Cyber Range Institute.”
The threat of cyberattacks against government, industry and individuals continues to increase in frequency and as a result many attackers with ever-changing goals, techniques and effectiveness, said Scott Petersen, executive director of UC Digital Futures-Cyber Development. Such cyberattacks can affect many people and require the integration of government, industry and academia to be prepared.
Such complexity requires ever-improving technical and operational expertise to help secure the cyber ecosystem and recover from cyber incidents, Petersen said. Ongoing training and education are vital.
“Exercises like this are widely considered a necessary best practice for our nation’s ‘first responders’. They hone the technical skills of participants and forge relationships that are crucial for a coordinated response from government and private organizations,” Petersen said.
Ohio has shown innovation and leadership in addressing these threats through the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee, which led to the development of the Ohio Cyber Range and Ohio Cyber Reserve. The lineup brings resources to enhance cyber teams and individuals, statewide.
The University of Cincinnati is in a unique position to help. UC was selected to develop and administer the Ohio Cyber Range Institute because of its multidisciplinary expertise and demonstrated collaborative approach. One of OCRI’s missions is to manage the statewide Cyber Range, an integrated cyber education, workforce, and economic development platform that began its activities in each congressional district during its first year of operation.
The four co-chairs of OCRI come from three UC colleges: College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services, and College of Arts and Sciences. UC is one of 18 institutions nationwide to hold National Security Agency designation as Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations and Cyber Defense.
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