By ALAN J. ORTBALS
The Midwest Cyber Center has opened a Cyber Technology and Research Lab in its office just outside the main gate to Scott Air Force Base.
Tony Bryan, executive director of MC2, said “CNTRL” was created with the community in mind. It will provide opportunities for all technical proficiencies, from high school student to industry professional, to collaborate and learn from each other through real-time cyber scenarios. CTRL has been created to become a playground where a user can learn security, penetration testing, practice skills, meet peers, and share knowledge. CTRL is not designed to provide certifications, but real-life scenarios and access to the technology and tools placed into the lab.
Jason Carter, MC2 board president and founder of Aegis Strategies, said, “Sun Tzu said, ‘If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.’ With the CTRL, we created a sandbox in which our private and military partners, as well as the general public, can improve themselves while learning the tools and techniques of their ‘enemies.’ The CTRL is a regional asset providing the needed resources to train on cutting-edge cybersecurity tools and techniques—a collaborative and free space to equip both the current and future generations of cybersecurity professionals and transform St. Louis into a true Cyber City.”
Bryan said his organization borrowed the idea from HeatSync Labs in Mesa, Ariz. HeatSync is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit shop and workspace that proudly proclaims that it’s been hacking Arizona since 2009. It’s a membership organization but also invites nonmembers to come in and use its facilities free and actually encourages people to come hack their network and penetrate their system. Bryan said representatives visited HeatSync to see first-hand how it operated and talk to members.
Similar to HeatSync, MC² will host hands-on exercises for beginners to experts through real-time operations. Each scenario is designed to meet the student where they are and build them into cyber defense and InfoSec professionals. Youth, parents, grandparents, college students, contractors or those already in corporate America are welcome. There are no instructors, said Bryan. It’s based on the idea that the users can learn from one another.
“The architect of our lab says that in order to be a good hacker, to be a good guy, you have to be able to understand how a hacker thinks,” said Bryan. “You have to understand what they’re doing with things like ransomware in order to understand where it came from and how it was created. Honestly, you have to be able to make some yourself.”
“CTRL is a playground for individuals in industry in a network where they can do anything that they want to,” Bryan added. “A lot of times if someone’s interested in hacking the opportunities are very limited. Our lab is designed to work 24 hours a day seven days a week. Bring in your computer, work alongside servicemen and women, college students, contractors. Hone your craft.”
CTRL is designed for anyone who wants to learn. From the CyberPatriot middle school or high school student just starting out to the cybersecurity professional at Scott AFB, our scenarios are designed for all technical competencies.
So far, there are 15-20 people who have registered for access, said Bryan. In order to move up to a further level of access, users need to attend an orientation where rules of use are reviewed; various scenarios are discussed and they are given an overview of the lab.
“We’ve had a really good response,” Bryan said. “We’ve had groups come in. Recently we had the Maryville University cyber security camp. Local high school students have toured the lab, learning about the resources they have available to them.”