European ‘good guy hackers’ to get workout in Israel’s CyberGym

European ‘good guy hackers’ to get workout in Israel’s CyberGym

Israel Electric Company’s unique real-life training ground will be used to defend critical infrastructure in Europe

Israel Electric Corporation Vice President, Yasha Hain (second left), and Ofir Hason watch a cyber team at work at the CyberGym school in Hadera, October 20, 2013. AP/Dan Balilty)
Israel Electric Corporation Vice President, Yasha Hain (second left), and Ofir Hason watch a cyber team at work at the CyberGym school in Hadera, October 20, 2013. AP/Dan Balilty)

As a perennial target of cyber-attacks, Israel has done a good job of developing, and exporting, cyber-security systems to protect against myriad hackers, crackers, cyber-thieves, and online activists intent on bringing down businesses, banks, and even governments.

Among the most ambitious of these Israeli systems is the CyberGym, a full-fledged hacker’s lair designed to train the company’s cyber-defenders in the fine art of thwarting hack attacks. Developed and successfully run in Israel for the past year by the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), CyberGym announced this week that it will be exporting to the Czech Republic its real-world hacking environment aimed at honing the skills of “good-guy hackers,” who are on the front lines of cyber-defense.

The Czech CyberGym will become a center for cyber-security training in Europe, the CyberGym said, with the Czech center providing programs for countries throughout the region.

The idea of the Cyber-Gym is to duplicate real-world conditions in which hackers might try to break into the IEC’s system. The IEC is no stranger to hack attacks — to the point that the IEC now experiences thousands of such attacks daily.

More than just a simulator, the CyberGym is essentially the real thing — a place where hackers try their hardest to compromise a working IEC infrastructure system. The facility consists of two separate rooms — one where the hackers do their dirty work, and another where the IEC’s cyber-defenders monitor and fend off attacks. The two sides don’t swap stories or secrets; the “White Team” defenders have no idea what the “Red Team” attackers (the two sides actually wear team outfits) are trying to pull off, so they need to remain alert to the techniques and details of each attack.

The CyberGym operates at the IEC Training Center in Heftziba, adjacent to the Orot Rabin Power Station in Hadera. Some of the world’s top “white hat” (good guy) hackers and technology defense personnel have visited the site in order to study the “CyberGym way” as a defense system for infrastructure and other critical facilities.

The Czech deal is CyberGym’s first in what it hopes will become a worldwide franchise of similar facilities. CyberGym Europe will be located in Prague, and will be directed by the group’s first European franchisee, Tomáš Přibyl, who was previously CEO of the Czech IT company Corpus Solutions. With the deal, the Czech Republic will become “an important center of cyber-security on the global security stage,” CyberGym said.

CyberGym runs training programs in its Israeli facility for many corporations and government groups, and has numerous international clients, including government agencies and companies in Spain, Lithuania, and Portugal. CyberGyms are on tap for the US, several South American countries, and Portugal, the company said.

CyberGym Europe director Přibyl said that the deal “will have an immense impact on making the Czech Republic a center of cyber-security. The new facility will be a cornerstone of the new pan-European cyber-security center of excellence, bringing together partners in the area and professionalizing the entire security industry, to the extent that we will be able to export our services to other countries.”

Ofir Hason, CyberGym Global CEO, said that the company chose the Czech Republic for its flagship European facility “not only because of its strategic position and solid economic conditions, but also because it has some of the best information technology experts in the region. In addition, Israel and the Czech Republic have historically had good relations. We see this project as our small contribution to helping Europe in its cyber battles, both present and future.”

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