Texas A&M Cyber Readiness Center Offers Cyber Training and Exercise Range for Government

Texas A&M University’s Cyber Readiness Center is now offering a new Cyber Training and Exercise Range to enable government organizations to train their employees with cyber attack simulations and hands-on exercises. According to the Center, jurisdictions can use the range for free through grant funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as long as those jurisdictions provide a facility to host exercises.

“This [range] grew out of the FEMA grant-funded program,” Andrew Jarrett, a program manager at the Cyber Readiness Center said. “In it, we immerse IT professionals in cybersecurity incident response … We bring the equipment and instructors to that area, and we conduct the training.”

Jarrett points out that the need to provide cybersecurity training has become particularly important with the rise in telework and digital learning in public schools.

“It’s a lot harder to defend that distributed infrastructure,” he said. “When it’s all sitting on one network, it’s a lot easier to monitor and put layers of security around it.”

The nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center recently reported that data breaches due to cyber attacks increased in the U.S. by 27% since last year, with phishing and ransomware being the most common. IBM released a study stating that data breaches have cost companies an average of $4.24 million per incident in 2021. According to federal agencies, public schools were top targets for cyber criminals using ransomware to extort millions of dollars last year. 

“If we can upskill existing IT professionals to teach them how to do the basics of cyber incident response and mitigation, then we can help them prevent having more costly [cyber attacks] down the line … In my opinion, it’s probably why [schools] are the most targeted, because they lack those resources in many cases,” he said. “With COVID, remote learning, e-learning and everything else, the responsibility of [IT departments] has been squarely on keeping the students and teachers connected, and so it’s made cybersecurity more difficult. We see that outside of education as well. Our attack surface has gotten much larger.”