Cyber Ranges and Digital Twins

Cyber ranges allow the testing and integration of many kinds of technologies. ‘Digital twins’ is a specific approach that is useful for testing and validating the behavior of a network or cyber system in a safe and controlled environment. Some particularly meaningful use cases for digital twin arrangements include testing operational technologies in industry 4.0 solutions, space environments, military applications, or smart cities.

It is easy to overspend on many technologies, and cybersecurity is no exception. “Throwing money at the problem” is rarely the best solution. Cyber range technology, and the digital twins approach in particular, allows organizations to test their cybersecurity arrangements in a small scale yet robustly, to identify potential vulnerabilities and shortcomings without necessarily duplicating a full-scale IT system merely for testing purposes.

What is a digital twin, and how has the concept evolved?

A digital twin, traditionally defined, is a virtual representation of a physical object or system that is created by using data and simulation models to replicate the real-world characteristics and behavior of the object. Digital twins are used to monitor, analyze, and optimize the performance of the physical counterpart in real-time.

For instance, IBM exemplifies the use case of a digital twin as :”The object being studied — for example, a wind turbine — is outfitted with various sensors related to vital areas of functionality. These sensors produce data about different aspects of the physical object’s performance, such as energy output, temperature, weather conditions and more. This data is then relayed to a processing system and applied to the digital copy.”

Even in an all-digital context, the concept of ‘twin’ is still useful. A cyber range can be used as a ‘digital twin’ to simulate and test the behavior of a network or cyber system in a controlled environment. Using a cyber range as a digital twin enables organizations to test and validate the behavior of their network or cyber system in a safe and controlled environment, without the risk of damaging the real system.

Using digital twins for testing smart city technologies, military networks, space systems, and operational technologies in Industry 4.0 applications

Using a digital twin setup allows the testing of a cyber system in a number of ways: Running defensive operations, simulating offensive attacks, testing different AI-related scenarios, and many more. Taking a granular approach to testing their systems helps the organization make the most of their investment in whatever technology they are looking to deploy – and defend against breaches and attacks.

For instance, to obtain a sufficient amount of testing data and experience, one does not necessarily need to build a full digital twin such as a 20,000-workstation network; merely 20 sample workstations might do just as well. (In other cases though, especially space applications, it is usually a good idea to build a full digital twin for testing purposes.)

Process-wise, a digital twin of a network or cyber system can be established and tested through the use of a cyber range as follows:

  • Model the network: The first step is to create a model of the network or cyber system that is being tested. This model should include all the components and their interconnections, as well as the rules and protocols that govern the behavior of the system.
  • Configure the cyber range: The cyber range should be configured to replicate the physical and logical environment of the network or cyber system being modeled. This includes installing the necessary software, hardware, and networking components, and configuring the environment to match the model.
  • Introduce scenarios: Once the cyber range has been configured, scenarios can be introduced to simulate real-world conditions and events. These scenarios could include cyber attacks, data breaches, and other security incidents, as well as routine activities such as software updates and network maintenance.
  • Monitor and analyze: The behavior of the network or cyber system can be monitored and analyzed in real-time as the scenarios are played out in the cyber range. This data can be used to identify security vulnerabilities, improve incident response procedures, and optimize the performance of the network or cyber system.
  • Validate and refine the model: The results of the simulation can be used to validate and refine the model of the network or cyber system. This can involve updating the model to reflect new insights, modifying scenarios to better reflect real-world conditions, or making changes to the environment to optimize performance.

CybExer has experience from integrating all the best known commercial cybersecurity vendors’ products into our cyber ranges, allowing the stakeholder teams to maximize their usefulness. We have also integrated some of the most complex operational technology systems for preproduction testing.