The phrase “practice makes perfect” is misleading. There is no perfect. However, good practice makes you better and allows you to both hone and verify your skills—and one of the best ways to practice is on a range. If you want to get better at golf, you go to a driving range. If you want to improve your marksmanship, you go to a shooting range.
You might not think of cybersecurity in the same way, but the same principle applies. Organizations today must defend a complex and expanding attack surface, against sophisticated adversaries and a daunting threat landscape. You certainly don't want to wait until you’re in the middle of an active cyberattack to learn the hard way that you’re not as prepared as you need to be. An environment that allows you to develop and validate your cybersecurity skills is invaluable.
There is a common phrase that you can’t learn to ride a bike by reading about it in a book. Similarly, you won’t get any strength or fitness value from watching a YouTube video on proper form for pushups. Some things have to actually be done in order to fully understand them or get value from them. You can study theories and go through the motions, but nothing beats the real thing.
What makes a range valuable is that it allows you to work on tactics and techniques in an environment that is relatively close—or at least very similar—to the actual scenario where you will put those skills to use. Hitting an actual golf ball with an actual golf club or shooting an actual gun at a target develops muscle memory and gives you firsthand experience that is invaluable when you have to put those skills to use in the real world.
Ranges also enable you to evaluate and assess the equipment. You can try different golf clubs or golf balls to see how they perform or test out different weapons or munitions to determine which works best or which you prefer.
Likewise, a cyber range should also emulate a real-world IT environment as much as possible. It should deliver realistic network traffic and accurately emulate network, user, and threat actor behavior. Ideally, it should be an expandable, high-fidelity, open platform that provides flexibility to train in a variety of scenarios.
A cyber range is multifaceted and enables a variety of training or validation scenarios. Red Teams can practice hacking skills. Blue Teams can train against live cyberattack scenarios. Organizations can assess security controls and configurations to validate security posture.
It’s important for the environment and traffic of the cyber range to be as realistic as possible. It should mirror real-world scenarios as closely as possible to enable security professionals to develop crucial skills and empower you to perform product and team evaluations that drive continuous improvement to your security posture.
Are your cybersecurity tools and controls adequate to defend against the overwhelming volume of sophisticated threats? Does your IT security team have the knowledge and experience required to detect and respond to targeted cyber threats? How do you know?
If you wait until you need a skill or tool, it’s already too late. You need to do the research, learn the techniques, and put in the work upfront so you’re ready when the need arises. A cyber range can play an essential role in optimizing your security readiness and ensuring that you’re prepared.