Defence Minister opens UK cyber security test range

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The first commercially available, federated cyber test range in the UK was opened last week by the Minister for International Security Strategy, Gerald Howarth.

The cyber range is located at the Northrop Grumman Corporation’s Fareham facility. It will be used for emulating large complex networks and for conducting cyber experiments and assessments of infrastructure survivability and assurance within a safe and controlled experimental environment to evaluate their resilience to cyber attacks.

The UK cyber range has been designed to be federated with other cyber ranges anywhere in the world to create the capability for large-scale experiments to be carried out beyond the scope of a single facility.

More than 50 guests from across government, industry and academia attended the opening ceremony, including Jean Valentine, one of the first operators of the bombe decryption device at Britain’s Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

Mr Howarth said:

Cyber security is a growing challenge which threatens government and commerce. Accordingly, the National Security Strategy, which we have announced this week, has given it the high priority that it rightly deserves.

As we increase our capability to protect ourselves, not only against cyber attacks on the Government but on businesses and on individuals, the cyber test range being unveiled here today will play an important part in understanding evolving threats and ensuring that critical networks are safe and properly protected.

The UK cyber range will be able to emulate large infrastructures and global threats and evaluate how these networks, whether military, civilian or commercial, respond to an attack in order to develop capabilities that will make these networks more secure.

The cyber range recreates the real-world environment to the highest degree practicable in a closed system, allowing it to be driven to total failure to ensure the impact of cyber attacks on the system and how to keep it operating through such attacks are fully understood.

Sir Nigel Essenhigh, Chairman of Northrop Grumman UK and Chief Executive of Northrop Grumman Information Systems Europe, said:

Hostile penetrations of cyber systems in both government and industry are widespread, successful and growing. Cyber security is a fundamental necessity for protecting our critical national infrastructure and our new federated cyber range will be a major UK resource for building, testing and validating technologies as rapidly and efficiently as possible.

With the unique capabilities of this new cyber range, Northrop Grumman is set to become one of the UK’s leading cyber solutions providers.

The UK range will be federated with the existing US cyber range and internet research laboratory located in Northrop Grumman’s CyberSpace Solutions Centre (CSSC) in Maryland.

This is dedicated both to independent research and development on cyber security projects as well as to carrying out customer contracts. The company has also opened in the US a state-of-the-art Cyber Security Operations Centre, a comprehensive cyber threat detection and response centre that focuses on protecting Northrop Grumman and its customers’ networks and data worldwide.

Dr Robert Brammer, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for Northrop Grumman’s Information Systems Sector, said:

One of the challenges for research into computer network operations and cyber security is experimentation and testing under controlled conditions. We need a test platform that is large enough to provide realistic environments and flexible enough to create many scenarios without creating risk for internet users.

Because our cyber range is federated we are able to address this challenge on a larger scale than previously possible, creating a robust, safe experimental environment for emulating, attacking and evaluating large network operations and cyber security defence.

A wide variety of host domains can be built and subjected to many types of both external and internal cyber exploits and the results recorded and analysed. With our cyber range we can find problems and solutions that you can’t find any other way.

The UK cyber range will initially be used by Northrop Grumman in collaboration with BT, Oxford University (Said Business School), Warwick University (School of Engineering) and Imperial College London (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) to conduct a series of experiments under the SATURN (Self-organising Adaptive Technology Under Resilient Networks) defence research programme, a research project focused on information infrastructure.

SATURN is a collaborative research programme funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board with the aim of improving the resilience of the UK critical national infrastructure.