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June 23, 2021 |

5 cyber range training mistakes to avoid at all costs

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Investing in a virtual training solution can elevate your team’s skills and preparedness, but there are several common cyber range training mistakes that can hinder your team’s progress and even increase your security risk.

While it’s important to choose the right cyber security training content and follow best practices, it’s equally important to recognize and avoid frustrating errors.

Here are the top five mistakes organizations make when delivering cyber range training and how you can avoid them.

1. Your virtual environment isn't realistic

Simulating a generic IT environment for your team to train in won’t have the same impact as one that perfectly recreates your live environment.

Don’t limit yourself to a cookie-cutter imitation of what staff will be defending. They need realistic conditions that will translate from the classroom to a live incident.

Think of it like this: you want your security experts to train as they fight. Soldiers, pilots, surgeons, and even first responders all follow this mindset: they focus on immersing themselves in real-world conditions to build skills and rehearse responses until they’re almost instinctual.

To truly get your staff combat-ready, your cyber range must be able to replicate the human activity that happens on your network. Look for a solution that can accurately simulate the conditions and tools your team will encounter and use.

For example, being able to simulate log behaviour or the actions of an actual person at their computer, opening email attachments and accessing information on a network, adds another layer of realism to a scenario. Attackers frequently use this activity to hide their own actions.

2. Courses don't align with training goals

One of the biggest challenges in cyber training is keeping the actual drills and exercises fresh while ensuring they align with the skills you need to develop.

Overcoming this challenge starts with defining specific training goals. “Better cyber security” is a great mission, but not an easily measurable objective. Focus on what you know needs improvement internally and tailor your courses and training efforts towards this.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a framework that identifies these competencies, and their National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Framework is a great place to start when establishing goals for developing your organization’s cyber expertise.

Keeping an eye on current real-world security incidents and creating scenarios that draw from new or emerging attack techniques can also keep your staff informed and prepared.

Size matters, too. Not everyone is going to get the same value out of a multi-day course focused on a specific threat response. Some team members may need briefer programs to get skilled up on the tools they’ll be using day-to-day.

By choosing content that aligns with the skillsets and roles you’re training for, you can ensure that practical hands-on learning is better retained and translates to a live environment.

3. The training takes too long to deploy

You shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you deliver training.

Ensuring your cyber range can quickly spin up and deploy virtual learning environments—on-prem or in the cloud—is vital for delivering consistent security education.

Good cyber ranges should offer a range of modular content that can easily be repurposed for a variety of needs, including courses, assessments, capture-the-flag games, and full team-based scenarios. This approach significantly reduces prep and planning time, allowing you to deliver learning material on demand.

Look for platforms that make importing, duplicating, and creating coursework easy. Spend less time focused on setup, staging, and recreating virtual environments and more time on actual training.

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When COVID-19 lockdowns began, an Ottawa-based non-profit needed a better way to deliver virtual and realistic cyber security learning. See why ICTC chose Field Effect Cyber Range.

Read the case study

4. You don't track learning progress

Without visibility into progress, it’s hard to gauge how effective your training is. Whether you’re assessing potential hires or putting skills to the test, you need a way to keep tabs on your cyber range users.

They may struggle with the challenges, but without insight into where they’re slowing down and what they’re having difficulty with—and the ability to engage when it happens—it’s hard to know how you can help.

Use a cyber range that allows instructors to directly monitor training and offer real-time assistance to improve learning outcomes. This means that when staff get stuck, you can reach out individually, or give them the option to request help or hints.

What’s more, your cyber range should let you provision multiple identical student environments for everyone taking a course concurrently. By isolating team members’ experiences, they can advance at their own pace without affecting their peers — and you can track progress in greater detail. Your range should allow you to monitor when staff reach certain milestones or perform certain tasks so you can ensure they’re on track.

5. Your cyber range stalls security training

Finally, the biggest cyber range training mistake you can make starts well before you even dig into coursework.

Cyber ranges that are difficult to use slow down every aspect of security training efforts. From initial deployment and course creation to the way teams interact with content and engage with feedback, ease of use is necessary.

Make sure your platform has the functionality you need to provide training quickly and efficiently. The easier it is to test in a virtual environment, the more practical experience you’ll deliver.

It’s hard to understate just how useful the ability to quickly prep virtual machines and get users up and running is. Imagine being able to deliver training on any machine in as little as 15 minutes, no matter where the student is—all with nothing more than a secure browser and internet connection.

Add to this at-a-glance progress reports for instructors, and suddenly you’re able to better tailor your curriculum to confidently build skills within your organization.

Get more from your cyber security training

Avoid mistakes that may impact your cyber range training. Choose a platform that lets you focus on what matters: getting infosec teams up-to-speed and combat-ready, fast.

Field Effect’s Cyber Range does exactly that, giving busy CISOs an intelligence-grade training platform where they can hone their team’s cyber proficiency in a safe, secure, and realistic environment.

To learn more about Cyber Range, contact our team today to get started or sign up for our newsletter below for access to helpful insights about emerging risks, security tips, webinar invites, and much more.