cyber range exercise

How to Choose a Cyber Range Exercise – An In-Depth Overview

Ensuring the high level security of your organization starts with individual employees. In fact, large enterprises spend about $2,700 per full-time employee per year on enhancing their cybersecurity efforts. 

But how do you make sure that this kind of investment pays off? 

Choosing the right cyber training activities that align with your organization’s specific needs can be a massive factor to validate your investment – that’s why it is important to choose the cyber range exercise that helps your employees boost their skills and improve their security posture. 

This article will tell you all about learning objectives and types of tasks that each exercise offers so you can make more informed decisions when it comes to planning cyber training for your team. 

What Is a Cyber Range Exercise?

We can define cyber range as a simulated environment that organizations use to train cybersecurity staff and test their incident response capabilities. 

This technology includes a simulated network infrastructure that allows organizations to play out hyper realistic cyber attack scenarios, so that their teams gain this unique experience in responding to different threats and attacks. 

So, the cyber range exercise is a practical way for organizations to boost their team’s cyber resilience and improve overall security posture. 

These exercises play a fundamental role in properly setting up your organization’s cyber preparedness management plan

Generally, it is crucial to take every angle into consideration and ensure your team’s cyber resilience to tackle potential challenges that are highly likely to occur. We can divide these challenges into four main categories: 

  • Expansion of new technologies – testing and implementing new solutions to see which one works the best can be a costly approach. 
  • Responding to digital threats – ensuring that the team has the ability to respond to increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. 
  • Meeting regulatory requirements – understanding compliance and regulatory demands from local governments. 
  • Skills management – addressing the massive skills gap in the cybersecurity field and boosting the team’s overall security posture. 

That’s why it is important to be familiar with different types of cyber range exercises. Each one of the exercises can help you tackle a specific problem and ensure that your organization takes its cybersecurity efforts to the next level. 

For that, it is important to get familiar with the types of cyber range exercises, their learning objectives, and nature of tasks to choose the one that fits your needs the most. 

What Types of Cyber Range Exercises Are There?

It is essential for organizations to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a cyber range exercise. First, you should identify the areas of improvement, and then plan the exercise that reflects on your objectives. 

Let’s have a look at the list of cyber range exercises, their learning objectives, and the types of tasks they can offer to the participants throughout the activity. 

Capture-The-Flag Cyber Range Exercise

Capture-the-Flag(CTF) cyber range exercise is a Jeopardy-style event where participants must find clearly defined answers to a series of questions. 

The “Flag” in this case, refers to a specific piece of information, data of a code hidden within the system. With the primary objective to provide a realistic and challenging experience, CTF exercise assists participants develop their skills in a controlled environment. 

Typically, the tasks are independent from one another, but there is an option to group them in case there is a need for participants. 

Learning Objectives of CTF Exercise

In the Capture-the-Flag event, each participating team has an assigned virtual environment for solving tasks that require interaction with a server. 

Therefore, this cyber range exercise has a wide range of learning objectives. For beginner-level participants, the learning objectives are the following: 

  • Demonstration of common hacking techniques.
  • Opportunity to try out technical skills.
  • Raising awareness and interest in cyber-security topics.

For experts, the objectives are more about improving their technical skills:

  • Mastering hacking techniques to understand how bugs in software can be exploited. 
  • Raising awareness of state-of-the-art exploits and the latest vulnerabilities. 
  • Mastering skills to quickly find answers or tools from the Internet. 
  • Improving creative thinking skills. 

Target Audience of CTF Exercise

Generally, the target audience of this exercise highly depends on the choice of the tasks for a particular event. The audience can range from entry-level specialists to experts in the cybersecurity field. 

Nature of Tasks

CTF exercise includes a number of technical and logical exercises in different categories that push teams to work together and solve cyber issues. Some of the task examples include the following: 

  • Exploit a format string vulnerability to get a flag from the server.
  • The flag is hidden in a text file that is encrypted using XOR, but the encryption key is missing. Retrieve the flag by brute-forcing the encryption key first. 
  • Recover a flag from a network packet capture that was exfiltrated through an encrypted channel.
  • Identify details of a custom challenge-response protocol from statically linked binary executable and implement the protocol to fetch flag from server. 
  • You have found a web server which communicates with the backend over API. Retrieve the flag by tampering with API parameters. 

Live Fire Cyber Range Exercise

Live-fire exercise is a deep, technical Red team vs Blue team cyber range exercise designed for practicing response to a cyber crisis according to a realistic pre-defined scenario. 

This exercise allows teams to unite and practice their technical skills to improve their cyber attack responding abilities in a rapid and effective manner. 

The structures and environments used in this exercise are standardized and, in addition to providing effective training experience, the scenarios have been specifically designed to allow scoring, benchmarking, and effective data capturing.

Learning Objectives of Live Fire Exercise

The main objectives of this cyber range exercise are to provide participants with a realistic experience and help them understand the practicalities of defending IT systems under intense cyber-attacks. 

More specifically, the learning objectives include: 

  • Fostering cooperation between various actors in the cybersecurity defense at the organizational level.
  • Rehearse specific defensive measures in case of an attack against a particular field or combination of fields.
  • Live reaction, planning of defense and enhancement of the environment
  • Monitoring and analysis of attacks.
  • Generalization and synthesis of information on the attacks, in particular from the point of view of validating appropriate defense plans and scenarios.
  • Discovery and understanding of sophisticated attack patterns and against the targets.
  • Stress handling and decision making under multiple bad choices. 

Target Audience of Live Fire Exercise

The target audience for the exercise is technical personnel involved in technical IT-security and cyber defense. The aim is to take the Blue Teams out of their comfort zone and give them the challenge to deal with the unknown environment. 

Nature of Tasks

When it comes to the nature of tasks for the Live Fire cyber range exercise, there are different attack campaign phases, Blue Team tasks, and Red Team activities that come together. 

Attack campaign phase indicates the type of the task – for example, it could be “Ransom demand and distribution of critical infrastructure,” which tells participants what kinds of activities they should be expecting. 

Both Blue Teams and Red Teams have their own specific step-by-step guidelines, showing how to execute their own respective tasks to reach their goals.  

Threat Hunting Cyber Range Exercise

Threat Hunting cyber range exercise is a task-driven activity with a focus on improving participants’ response and investigation capabilities. 

Think of it as a game where detectives are searching for clues in a crime scene. In this case, the team of participants is looking for evidence of suspicious activities, which include detecting attempts for social engineering attacks or hackers trying to target your organization’s public websites to deface them.  

The core idea is to have a friendly competition between Blue Teams, where they get the score for solving incidents by providing relevant details about attacks. In addition, they can come up with cooperation initiatives and share helpful information to reach the goal. 

Learning Objectives of Threat Hunting

Threat Hunting cyber range exercise aims to teach participants how to collaborate and make use of various tools to hunt for potential threats. More specifically, the learning objectives include: 

  • Fostering cooperation between blue teams by sharing Indicators of Compromise (IoC-s) between each other. 
  • Monitoring and deep analysis of attacks.
  • Generalization and synthesis of information on the attacks.
  • Discovery and understanding of sophisticated attack patterns against the targets.
  • Improving teamwork through delegation, dividing and assigning roles, and leadership.

Target Audience of Threat Hunting Exercise

The target audience for this exercise consists of employees involved in technical IT-security or cyber defense activities, reporting and analytical staff, and their management teams. 

It is important to keep in mind that throughout this exercise, there should ideally be two or three Blue Teams, each one containing up to 6-8 participants, to make sure they are covering various roles and responsibilities.

Nature of Tasks

Threat Hunting exercise has a set of different predefined scenarios. The pace of this exercise is usually lower than usual, and actions can be repeated to make sure that participants are able to grasp the material fully. 

The types of scenarios in this exercise include: 

  • Social engineering scenarios.  
  • Reverse engineering scenarios. 
  • Attacks against web servers. 
  • Malicious files on the file server. 
  • Compromising drone operations. 

How to Choose the Cyber Range Exercise That Fits Your Organization’s Needs?

When it comes to choosing the most suitable cyber range exercise for your organization, you must be clear about your business requirements – it is important to establish a clear understanding of objectives you are trying to achieve with this exercise. 

After understanding your objectives and desired outcomes, you should select the cyber range partner that fits your requirements and is able to carry out the cyber range exercise that you need on a technical level. 

It is also important to familiarize yourself with the learning objectives, target audiences, and natures of the tasks of each exercise so that you can make an informed decision about exactly which exercise is appropriate for your organization. 

Cybexer Technologies – Leading the Way to Cyber Preparedness

It is always beneficial to consult with the cyber range expert when it comes to choosing the cyber range exercise that fits your organization’s needs. It will help you get valuable insights and validate your requirements to ensure the best possible outcome from this activity. 

CybExer Technologies has been a driving force in the cybersecurity field since 2016. Our team offers an advanced Cyber Range platform that can equip organizations with extensive training modules to elevate their cyber preparedness. 

If you’d like to learn more about our offerings, feel free to schedule a call with our cyber range experts to discuss your organization’s needs.