IBM takes cybersecurity training on the road

  • Going mobile
- STACY COWLEY, CALIFORNIA

Oct 17, 2018-

Two years ago, IBM opened one of the nation’s first commercial cybersecurity ranges in Cambridge, Mass., to let companies practice responding to simulated cyberattacks. It describes the experience as “a game of Clue mixed with a Disney roller-coaster ride.”

In a windowless bunker packed with a data centre, wall-to-wall monitors, atmospheric controls, dozens of work stations and a functional TV studio, participants have about four hours to investigate and respond to a fictional data breach. It’s like an escape room for security nerds.

But this time, it’s going mobile. The move is a reflection of the extent to which the threat of cyberattacks has captured the attention of organisations of all kinds, including the technology companies Facebook and Google, banks, military installations and those who run industrial control systems, like electricity and water providers. Tampering was a major issue in the election of President Trump, of course, and is cause for concern as the midterm elections approach.

While companies are scrambling to get up to speed, they can’t always send an entire team away for a few days of training on how to spot and respond to a cyberattack. Starting Monday the company is introducing its mobile cyber command centre, tucked into a heavily customised semitrailer truck. What IBM calls its “cyber tactical operations centre” will make stops at college campuses and security-focused events before heading to Europe for a lengthy tour.

Officially, the trailer is intended for cybersecurity education and as a mobile response unit. Unofficially, it’s also a playground packed with tech bling where geeks can experiment with ways to combat cyberattacks that have yet to be imagined. “People have put all kinds of cool things into trailers, but nobody has ever put a cyber command centre into one before,” said Caleb Barlow, a vice president at IBM Security, where he leads the companys X-Force Threat Intelligence organisation and created the Cambridge range. Touch screens displaying real-time threat monitoring—preferably with as many blinking charts and scary graphics as possible—are a must in any cyber war room. For the truck, IBM bought a 12-foot-long exterior screen that it said was one of the largest high-definition displays ever mounted to a vehicle.

It also crammed in 20,000 feet of networking cable, two satellite dishes with cellular links, a generator-fueled power plant and a light tower with the intensity of 60 car headlights. Its data centre, stuffed with server racks and multimedia controls, fits into a space the size of a large refrigerator.

“This is toward the upper end of the most complicated trailers we’ve ever built,” said Mike Galvin, a sales manager for Featherlite, a manufacturer in Cresco, Iowa, that makes specialty trailers for emergency responders, mobile medical clinics and Nascar teams.

On the road, the truck looks like any other shipping trailer hauling goods. But when it parks, it unfolds and triples its size. Beneath an extended canopy, IBM can unfurl a command post with 22 Mac-equipped work stations and a six-seat conference room.

The main training room closely resembles IBM’s Cambridge range, with touch-screen monitors on three walls showing charts, video clips and forensic material like snippets of malicious computer code. From a tablet, IBM’s employees can adjust the room’s displays.

—©2018 The New York Times

Published: 17-10-2018 09:08

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