Virtual worlds training for federal cyber pros in the works

After finishing a successful year of training the federal cyber workforce, the government is taking another step toward cultivating better-prepared digital defenders.

In July 2010, the departments of Homeland Security and State kicked off an initiative that provides training to federal cybersecurity professionals from 55 offices and agencies. The Federal Cybersecurity Training Event program offers sessions to security personnel at no per-seat cost to their agency, and aims to maintain cybersecurity expertise governmentwide, said Jeff Breed, acting assistant director of the DS Training Directorate.


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The training itself focuses on cyber protection, response and mitigation, some courses have covered topics such as cyber reconnaissance, exploitation of vulnerabilities and data exportation from breached systems. FedCTE also offers more hands-on training by “Red Team/Blue Team” exercises, in which two teams try to hack into each other’s computer systems. 

Officials are now planning to take FedCTE to the next level and offer a different way of taking its online courses.

“To enhance the learning experience of the security professionals enrolled in our online training, beginning January 2012 FedCTE will offer its online courses in a ‘virtual worlds’ environment, in which students will be represented as avatars in a 3-D rendering of a classroom,” Breed said. “We expect this to make our online training more useful and enjoyable for our federal cybersecurity trainees.”

Other agencies have also experimented with virtual worlds. In 2010, a request for information from the Army indicated there were plans to develop a virtual training ground with 10,000 avatars, Nextgov reports.

Similarly, the Navy in May 2011 explored options to use virtual worlds to train and engage in “collaborative engineering." A team at the The Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport in Rhode Island was looking at Second Life, Teleplace, RealWorld, Open Simulator and other virtual worlds "to understand their strengths and weaknesses and limitations as we apply them to military requirements," according to a report by American Forces Press Services.

About the Author

Camille Tuutti is a former FCW staff writer who covered federal oversight and the workforce.

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