What Is a Cyber Range? The Beginner-to-Expert Learning Path in Cybersecurity
You’ve probably heard that cybersecurity is an in-demand career field right now. If you’ve wondered why, look at the damage security breaches do to a company: lost intellectual property, a damaged reputation, and a loss of competitive advantage in the marketplace. Experts report that a single security incident can cost an enterprise more than USD 4 million (IBM, 2023). And since new threats emerge every day, it’s easy to see why businesses are putting resources behind information security.
When the time comes to protect business data, the cybersecurity professional has to be ready. There is little room for error, even though they may deal with an entirely new threat. Thankfully, there is a tool of the trade that helps keep information security workers up-to-date and ready: the cyber range.
Cyber ranges provide a safe and controlled environment for learning about the latest threats, practicing security responses, and learning new skills. They’re also a crucial component of cybersecurity courses. A beginner’s path to becoming an expert includes a lot of time spent in a cyber range. The concept of cyber ranges may be new to you; here’s what you need to know and why they’re an essential tool at every stage of a cybersecurity career.
What Is a Cyber Range?
A cyber range is a virtual environment meant to replicate real-world cybersecurity scenarios (Taylor, 2023). It provides a safe and secure environment that allows for practical exercises without the risk of causing harm to actual systems. Students, security professionals, researchers, and others use cyber ranges as testing grounds to practice their response to real-world cybersecurity challenges.
While training and certification courses commonly use cyber ranges to provide real-world learning scenarios, they have many other uses. IT teams utilize cyber ranges to stay updated on new threats and defense techniques. Researchers, military personnel, and government agencies also use them to gauge real-world security threats and formulate appropriate responses.
The typical cyber range infrastructure uses virtual machines to simulate real-world hardware and software. Virtualization systems can quickly deploy “target infrastructures” that accurately replicate real-world assets that might be under attack. Since virtual machines are easily segmented from other networks, such as a corporate LAN or the internet at large, cyber ranges provide a safe environment for experimentation. If a virtualized system is compromised in the cyber range, it can be destroyed and then re-deployed for further practice or testing.
Target infrastructures can include virtualized versions of all the real-world systems that might be compromised: servers, firewalls, routers, switches, storage devices, personal computers, mobile devices, and other digital assets. Within the cyber range, real-world cybersecurity tools are available to the user. This includes penetration testing tools, intrusion detection systems, log analyzers, digital forensics tools, and encryption and decryption tools.
A cyber range will also feature a learning management system (LMS) in a classroom or certification course. The LMS helps instructors define the course curriculum and provides a way to measure students’ progress. Other resources are typically available in an LMS, including course assignments, quizzes, and messaging functionality for student-instructor communication.
Who Should Use a Cyber Range?
Given their usefulness for learning about cybersecurity and preparing attack defenses, cyber ranges are essential for a wide range of people and organizations. Those who should use a cyber range include:
- Students: Cyber ranges are now incorporated into top-tier cybersecurity courses. Thanks to cyber ranges, students pursuing certifications or degrees gain practical experience in hands-on labs.
- Cybersecurity professionals: Security analysts, penetration testers, ethical hackers, and other cybersecurity professionals use cyber ranges to improve their skills. Cyber ranges are an essential way to get real-world practice and stay on top of the latest threats, all while learning new defense techniques.
- Military and government agencies: The various branches of the military and government agencies were among the first organizations to use the internet. Strict cybersecurity practices are needed to maintain national defense and data safety. Cyber ranges aid government personnel in handling the latest cyber threats, including cyber warfare and espionage.
- Bug bounty hunters: Some cybersecurity professionals make a living by finding bugs and other vulnerabilities and reporting them to developers and manufacturers. This is known as bug bounty hunting. Cyber ranges provide the perfect environment for safely researching potential security issues and discovering new vulnerabilities.
The Importance of Cyber Ranges
Cyber ranges have become one of the most critical tools in a cybersecurity professional’s toolbelt. Professionals and students alike develop practical skills as they detect, prevent, and respond to cyber threats in the range.
No other cybersecurity tool provides such a safe learning environment. Cyber ranges mitigate the risk of damage to real systems and valuable data while offering a realistic experience. Modern virtualization platforms provide security professionals with an environment that duplicates the real world but in a controlled and easily deployed setting.
For those pursuing a degree or certification, cyber range training offers a safe way to learn new concepts and gain hands-on experience. The practical exposure to various cyber threats and attacks is invaluable to those learning about information security. Cyber ranges also help students build confidence without the stress of addressing live threats.
Once they are working in a cybersecurity role, ranges are the best way to detect, prevent, and respond to cyber threats. Cybersecurity professionals can detect and respond to attacks by virtualizing their organization’s network infrastructure in a controlled, safe environment. This ensures that when they address threats for real, the proper response is made. And if they are no longer students, informal cyber range training enhances their knowledge and helps hone their skills.
For professionals and students alike, cyber ranges provide an environment of continuous learning and skill building. No matter where an individual is in their security career, cyber range training is the best way to stay updated on the latest threats and defense techniques.
Cyber Range with EC-Council’s C|PENT Certification
Certified Penetration Testing Professional (C|PENT) certification teaches you essential pen testing skills in real-world settings, thanks to EC-Council’s Cyber Range. Through the Labs, you can perform on the range and gain valuable pen testing practice based on real-world scenarios. From advanced Windows attacks to exploiting cloud apps and IoT (Internet of Things) devices, the C|PENT course helps you master one of the most essential cybersecurity skills today.
Check the course outline to learn more about the C|PENT certification program, including cyber range training. You’ll get an overview of the 14 comprehensive modules that make up the course. Whether starting your cybersecurity career path or adding to your skill set, the C|PENT will teach you this critical cybersecurity skill.
Taylor, H. (2023, June 5). What is a cyber range? Cybersecurity Guide. https://cybersecurityguide.org/resources/cyber-ranges/
IBM. (2023). Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023. https://www.ibm.com/reports/data-breach