Defence Minister opens UK cyber security test range

The first com­mer­cial­ly avail­able, fed­er­at­ed cyber test range in the UK was opened last week by the Min­is­ter for Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Strat­e­gy, Ger­ald Howarth.

The cyber range is locat­ed at the Northrop Grum­man Corporation’s Fare­ham facil­i­ty. It will be used for emu­lat­ing large com­plex net­works and for con­duct­ing cyber exper­i­ments and assess­ments of infra­struc­ture sur­viv­abil­i­ty and assur­ance with­in a safe and con­trolled exper­i­men­tal envi­ron­ment to eval­u­ate their resilience to cyber attacks. 

The UK cyber range has been designed to be fed­er­at­ed with oth­er cyber ranges any­where in the world to cre­ate the capa­bil­i­ty for large-scale exper­i­ments to be car­ried out beyond the scope of a sin­gle facility. 

More than 50 guests from across gov­ern­ment, indus­try and acad­e­mia attend­ed the open­ing cer­e­mo­ny, includ­ing Jean Valen­tine, one of the first oper­a­tors of the bombe decryp­tion device at Britain’s Gov­ern­ment Code and Cypher School at Bletch­ley Park dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. 

Mr Howarth said: 

“Cyber secu­ri­ty is a grow­ing chal­lenge which threat­ens gov­ern­ment and com­merce. Accord­ing­ly, the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Strat­e­gy, which we have announced this week, has giv­en it the high pri­or­i­ty that it right­ly deserves. 

“As we increase our capa­bil­i­ty to pro­tect our­selves, not only against cyber attacks on the Gov­ern­ment but on busi­ness­es and on indi­vid­u­als, the cyber test range being unveiled here today will play an impor­tant part in under­stand­ing evolv­ing threats and ensur­ing that crit­i­cal net­works are safe and prop­er­ly protected.” 

The UK cyber range will be able to emu­late large infra­struc­tures and glob­al threats and eval­u­ate how these net­works, whether mil­i­tary, civil­ian or com­mer­cial, respond to an attack in order to devel­op capa­bil­i­ties that will make these net­works more secure. 

The cyber range recre­ates the real-world envi­ron­ment to the high­est degree prac­ti­ca­ble in a closed sys­tem, allow­ing it to be dri­ven to total fail­ure to ensure the impact of cyber attacks on the sys­tem and how to keep it oper­at­ing through such attacks are ful­ly understood. 

Sir Nigel Essen­high, Chair­man of Northrop Grum­man UK and Chief Exec­u­tive of Northrop Grum­man Infor­ma­tion Sys­tems Europe, said: 

“Hos­tile pen­e­tra­tions of cyber sys­tems in both gov­ern­ment and indus­try are wide­spread, suc­cess­ful and grow­ing. Cyber secu­ri­ty is a fun­da­men­tal neces­si­ty for pro­tect­ing our crit­i­cal nation­al infra­struc­ture and our new fed­er­at­ed cyber range will be a major UK resource for build­ing, test­ing and val­i­dat­ing tech­nolo­gies as rapid­ly and effi­cient­ly as possible. 

“With the unique capa­bil­i­ties of this new cyber range, Northrop Grum­man is set to become one of the UK’s lead­ing cyber solu­tions providers.” 

The UK range will be fed­er­at­ed with the exist­ing US cyber range and inter­net research lab­o­ra­to­ry locat­ed in Northrop Grumman’s Cyber­Space Solu­tions Cen­tre (CSSC) in Maryland. 

This is ded­i­cat­ed both to inde­pen­dent research and devel­op­ment on cyber secu­ri­ty projects as well as to car­ry­ing out cus­tomer con­tracts. The com­pa­ny has also opened in the US a state-of-the-art Cyber Secu­ri­ty Oper­a­tions Cen­tre, a com­pre­hen­sive cyber threat detec­tion and response cen­tre that focus­es on pro­tect­ing Northrop Grum­man and its cus­tomers’ net­works and data worldwide. 

Dr Robert Bram­mer, Vice Pres­i­dent and Chief Tech­nol­o­gy Offi­cer for Northrop Grumman’s Infor­ma­tion Sys­tems Sec­tor, said: 

“One of the chal­lenges for research into com­put­er net­work oper­a­tions and cyber secu­ri­ty is exper­i­men­ta­tion and test­ing under con­trolled con­di­tions. We need a test plat­form that is large enough to pro­vide real­is­tic envi­ron­ments and flex­i­ble enough to cre­ate many sce­nar­ios with­out cre­at­ing risk for inter­net users. 

“Because our cyber range is fed­er­at­ed we are able to address this chal­lenge on a larg­er scale than pre­vi­ous­ly pos­si­ble, cre­at­ing a robust, safe exper­i­men­tal envi­ron­ment for emu­lat­ing, attack­ing and eval­u­at­ing large net­work oper­a­tions and cyber secu­ri­ty defence. 

“A wide vari­ety of host domains can be built and sub­ject­ed to many types of both exter­nal and inter­nal cyber exploits and the results record­ed and analysed. With our cyber range we can find prob­lems and solu­tions that you can’t find any oth­er way.” 

The UK cyber range will ini­tial­ly be used by Northrop Grum­man in col­lab­o­ra­tion with BT, Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty (Said Busi­ness School), War­wick Uni­ver­si­ty (School of Engi­neer­ing) and Impe­r­i­al Col­lege Lon­don (Elec­tri­cal and Elec­tron­ic Engi­neer­ing) to con­duct a series of exper­i­ments under the SATURN (Self-organ­is­ing Adap­tive Tech­nol­o­gy Under Resilient Net­works) defence research pro­gramme, a research project focused on infor­ma­tion infrastructure. 

SATURN is a col­lab­o­ra­tive research pro­gramme fund­ed by the UK Tech­nol­o­gy Strat­e­gy Board with the aim of improv­ing the resilience of the UK crit­i­cal nation­al infrastructure. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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