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Interactive virtual city helps protect from potential cyberattacks

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Posted at 7:24 PM, Sep 29, 2021

RESTON, Virginia — The stronger technology gets, the greater the risk of an attack. That’s exactly why CACI, a provider of expertise and technology, built city block.

Kevin McNeill, a senior vice president at the company, explains government agencies, military groups, large companies, and businesses can all utilize this new technology to protect their systems.

“City Block is a capability that we built under internal research and development and the idea is to improve the capabilities to train cyber protection teams or network defenders about the complexities of critical infrastructure," McNeill said. “We built this system so that we can dynamically introduce problems or introduce failures and then that trains them to recognize those failures."

This new system is helping large entities save money to train.

“Some of the training had to be done either with mock-ups or building actual infrastructure, which is quite expensive," McNeill said. “So it saves time, saves money, we can also create new scenarios more rapidly."

The importance of virtual or augmented reality being at the forefront of this conversation is because the youngest leaders are those who grew up playing video games and spending much of their time with technology.

“That is in their comfort zone of how they think and learn so you have to make the training really what they resonate with and what they can take on board more rapidly," McNeill said.

McNeill says this is the future and more of it will be augmented and virtual reality.

Steven Beaty is a professor of computer science at Metropolitan State University in Denver and he explains to his students just how crucial this kind of preparation can be to protect against cyberattacks.

“I think it can do an incredible amount of damage. We’ve seen individual things as you’ve mentioned gas pipelines, food processing, all of these other sorts of things, have you will individually attacked. We need to be careful then around our entire infrastructure," Beaty said.

That infrastructure can only be defended if those responsible, have experience protecting the systems.

“So again, the kinds of tools that are within the city block, are the same kinds of systems that are used in the real world that are used to do things like control those gas pipelines, the pumps, the flows, the valves, all of those things," McNeill said.

CACI provides technology for national security which is the nature of their company.

“For everybody else, it’s an everyday aspect of their life. You hear about ransomware, you hear about hospitals being shut down because of ransomware taking over their systems and they have to pay bribes out, there’s been situations where whole cities get their systems compromised and can’t execute their business functions for the city and that impacts everybody," McNeill said.

“I think there are some scenarios where people’s daily lives would be heavily influenced by one of these attacks," Beaty said. “You attack wall street and all of a sudden, what our money is worth, what our stock is worth, what our companies are worth, those sorts of things I think becomes a very large issue.”

“We all saw what happened when that pipeline was shut down, gas prices went up, people panicked, they went to buy gas because that gas pipeline sent gas up along the east coast and there was very serious concern. So that was just one example of a real-world cyber-attack," McNeill said.

In an effort to prevent each one of these potential threats from occurring, City Block plans to grow and prepare those who can fight back.