New approaches to cyber warfare training

Modern warfare is complex, combining cyber and kinetic elements on the battlefield. Most military systems are reliant on networks for rapid communications, and for operating highly-sophisticated weapons. Future conflicts will, therefore, involve attempts to disrupt them. What, then, is the best way for modern fighters to train for cyber warfare?

Cyber training challenges

Although computer-based simulations are an established way of training troops and developing combat techniques, these traditional systems have disadvantages or weaknesses:
  • They assume everything in the field works without disruption, providing a model that is too simplified
  • They lack a realistic representation of wireless battlefield networks, and the increased vulnerability of these networks to cyberattacks
  • There is a lack of integration between traditional cyber training and kinetic (ie. physical) preparation

White carding

This is the simplest way of introducing cyberspace disruption into training. It is the equivalent of the red card in football, in that participants are told at a certain point their system has had a cyberattack, which then removes this capability from them. Giving trainees a white card is a low-cost way of simulating network disruption during training, but it is extremely limited in scope.

Effects-based simulation of cyberspace operations

A step up from white carding is to bridge a gap between traditional and cyberspace training by introducing effects-based simulation to trainee workstations. Computer-based simulations have long been used to train troops and develop new warfighting techniques. Network modelling and simulation systems realistically represent combat, from sensors and weapons systems to the tactical behaviour of individual entities and military units. This enables instructors to launch network effects that appear to degrade them. However, it is only visual and no actual disruption occurs to data transmission during training. The introduction of an information operations protocol data unit (IO PDU) allows simulations to recognise cyberattacks and to change their behaviour in response. However, this approach cannot simulate attacks against a network connecting systems on the battlefield.

Cyber ranges

Another traditional form of cyber warfare training involves replicating hardware and connecting it to a wired network. It provides an operational representation of information architecture within network operations. These cyber ranges do provide realistic representations, but they are costly and take time to set up. They are also limited in scale. Additionally, they have little or no capability to model wireless tactical networks.

An improved approach to cyber warfare training

Linking the previously disconnected training environments of the kinetic battlefield and the cyber range creates a detailed simulation for cyber warfare training. This approach intercepts the transmitted messages in the traditional domain and sends them through a software emulation of the battlefield network. It means that any compromised communications will have an impact on the trainees’ awareness and decision-making. This ultimately influences mission outcome, providing a hyper-realistic training situation. Scalable Network Technologies offer a system that integrates real and simulated cyberspace operations, wired and wireless virtual networks, live and virtual equipment and applications, and traditional kinetic warfare training simulators into a full, instrumented synthetic cyber warfare training environment.

The emulated network

With this new approach, the software emulation of the network runs in real-time. It can draw on various wireless communication effects including terrain, jamming, interference, fading and other environmental factors. The emulated network reacts in the same way as a real one, and you can subject it to real or simulated cyberspace operations.

High-fidelity cyber training benefits

The benefits of this new approach include:
  • Accurate network modelling with high-fidelity responses to cyberspace attacks and vulnerabilities
  • Combining real equipment with virtual devices and host models
  • Routing real traffic through the emulated network to integrate live and virtual training systems
  • Providing a safe environment for simulated cyberattacks
  • Integrating cyberspace and kinetic environments to train for the impact of cyberspace operations on overall mission outcomes
Trainees can learn individually or in teams, understanding how to detect when things go wrong and to identify the counter-measures they must take. At the same time, network administrators will learn to detect and react to threats as they occur as part of the same exercise. This creates a dynamic, responsive, train-as-you-fight environment. For more details about new approaches to cyber warfare training, please contact us.


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