The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., has been awarded $7.3 million for the initial development phase of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) effort to build a "cyber range" to test cyber security technology and protect government computer networks from attacks.
Viruses, hackers and other cyber threats are now a part of daily life. Malicious activity directed at U.S. government computer networks is growing more sophisticated, more targeted, and more prevalent. "The threat of terrorists seeking to exploit the Internet to cause damage to the nation's network of information systems, and therefore its security, is very real," says Timothy Galpin, APL's Infocentric Operations Business Area Executive.
Experts say that creating a cyber test range would allow the nation to experiment, conduct research into and realistically test methods to thwart such attacks. But in the world of cyber operations, such tests are infrequent, expensive, and time-consuming. So DARPA has asked an APL-led group and six other teams to create detailed engineering plans for a National Cyber Range (NCR) that will:
- Conduct unbiased, quantitative and qualitative assessment of information assurance and survivability tools in a representative network environment;
- Replicate complex, large-scale, heterogeneous networks and users in current and future Department of Defense weapon systems and operations;
- Enable multiple, independent, simultaneous experiments on the same infrastructure;
- Enable realistic testing of Internet/Global Information Grid scale research;
- Develop and deploy revolutionary cyber testing capabilities; and
- Enable the use of the scientific method for rigorous cyber testing.
"Each of these alone presents significant challenges that have not necessarily been met by the test beds and cyber ranges in operation today," says Peter Dinsmore, the principal investigator for the effort. "We are leading a team of nine organizations to create a test range that, when fully operational, will meet all of these requirements and enable leap-ahead advances in cyber technologies."
The APL-led team includes BBN Technologies (Cambridge, Mass.), Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, N. M.), Idaho National Laboratory (Idaho Falls, Idaho), Verizon Federal Network Systems (Columbia, Md.), OPNET Technologies (Bethesda, Md.), Skaion Corp. (North Chelmsford, Mass.), the University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah), and Secure Decisions (Northport, N.Y.).
"Cyber testing capabilities have grown significantly over the past few years, with many lessons learned by the APL team," says APL's Andy Thompson, the program manager for the effort. "We will be leveraging both our own previous efforts and the efforts of many others in this community."
APL will submit its design proposal to DARPA this summer. DARPA will then make decisions that, at least for now, include three follow-on phases for NCR ̶ prototype demonstration, build-out, and operation of the full-scale NCR.