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Cyber Lab energus

Immersive lab dedicated to boosting cyber security resilience

Keeping businesses safe from the increasing threat of cyber-attack is a priority for Energus & the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), who now recognise cybercrime as one of the greatest security-related challenges they face.

The Cyber Lab, the first of its kind in the North West, is an important part of the strategy to build resilience against Cybercrime by tackling the current skills shortage and equipping the next generation of Cyber Security professionals with the skills necessary to take on the criminals.

Complete with an immersive environment capable of simulating the experience of an attack, the lab is used to deliver apprenticeship frameworks, STEM programmes and commercial training to equip the NDA Group, Nuclear Supply chain and local businesses with the skills to defend critical infrastructure and business services against Cyber Attacks.

More than your average classroom

Energus set out to create an immersive experience with impact; a space that would not look anything like a standard classroom. They contacted Pure AV to discuss the vision for the lab and the experience they wanted to create. To develop the look of the training space Pure AV introduced FPP, the brand agency they have worked with since 2002 on projects for high profile blue chip clients.

Pure AV talked through the key requirements so FPP could develop them into a visual form and produce 3D visualisations. The agency also designed a logo and window and wall graphics to complement the immersive working environment created to simulate a real-world cyber defence situation room.

When someone enters the facility for the first time, it should feel as though they are entering (GCHQ) Government Communications HQ or The Ministry of Defence. There is an increased level of formality and procedure to follow, briefings have a sense of urgency, giving the impression of a real-life threat that needs to be defended. The aesthetics and functionality of the room deliver unforgettable experience for visitors and helps to get them into the right mind-set for the training ahead.

Colin Hasted, System Specialist, Pure AV

A SECURE TRAINING GROUND

The brief required an immersive environment, fully isolated away from the Energus production network. This would allow the simulation of virus attacks without any risk to the Energus network.

We wanted an immersive learning environment, fully isolated from our production network so that anything that happens within this environment stays in here.

Bradley Cleaver, I.T Service Lead , Energus

In 2018, every AV system should be secure and with a Cyber Lab, this is even more paramount. The audio visual system in the Cyber Lab is Ethernet controlled so it was important to manage any potential risk from third-party equipment which might not feature adequate levels of security. To achieve this Pure AV selected the Crestron CP3N controller which provides both a high level of security and a secondary isolated network connection. As Hasted explained,

This approach enabled us to protect all the control equipment on a completely isolated VLAN, out of reach of the cyber security students while still maintaining a secure connection to the core network for remote diagnostics.

COLLABORATION SUPPORTED BY TECHNOLOGY

Collaboration is also an important part of the learning process within the Cyber Lab. During a simulation or training session there are multiple sources of data and information for both the students and tutor to manage. The technology in the room has been selected and integrated by Pure AV to enable the easy sharing of content between the various display devices and make the control of the environment a straightforward, uncomplicated experience.

As Bradley Cleaver, IT services lead, Energus explained.

The technology is a key focus in the room. From the large front of house displays, touch table deviceto the projectors it’s fully collaborative. Students can share what they’re doing with the other students and with the tutor.

FLEXIBLE DISPLAY OPTIONS

Situated around the room are five wall mounted display devices including a mix of 84” and 55”Philips interactive touch panels and Epson projectors, with the two Epson UST EB-700U laser projectors, projecting onto Smart Glass. Each device selected for its performance, connectivity and ease of control. A 65” Iiyama touch table provides the collaborative centre piece of the room and it is here that students can gather, display diagrams, zoom in and out of them and obtain a bird’s eye view of networking architectures.

To achieve the desired flexibility in content sharing, it was important that any workstation, laptop or smart device could be shown on any display. This involved using Kramer VIA wireless collaboration equipment, an Extron DTP Crosspoint device for switching and distribution and a Crestron 3-Series control system.

The Kramer Via provides an easy way to exchange information from desktop PCs and laptops and share it with the rest of the room, without having to be connected by wires. Meanwhile, the Crestron control system was selected for its flexibility and ability to communicate and interact with the lighting system.

Cleaver says:

Tutors can display independent content on each of the main displays or replicate the same content across all screens. For example, they could simulate real life cyber-attacks as they are happening on the side displays while monitoring student responses on the main screens; it is a fully collaborative environment.

SIMPLE CONTROL

The user interface based around a 10-inch touchscreen is custom designed to make it easy for users to select which source should go to each display. It also offers full control of the colour changing DMX lighting system which is fully integrated within the main AV control system.

DYNAMIC LIGHTING INTENSIFIES THE USER EXPERIENCE

The tutor has the ability to change the look, feel and atmosphere of the room at the touch of a button thanks to the integrated lighting system designed and manufactured to Pure AV’s brief by NJO Technology. The innovative system makes it possible for the room colour to be altered in response to the activity taking place. The space can turn red during a cyber-attack and then gradually change from red to green as the attack is defended, all controlled from the main user interface.

Cleaver adds,

The lighting and graphics immerse the apprentices in the learning space. We can simulate lock down and change the lighting to red to simulate a cyber-attack and then split the room to defend and attack, using the lighting to intensify the in-room experience.

A ROOM WITH IMPACT AND A BIG FUTURE

The room environment has already made an impression on users, presenting a flexible space where large amounts of information can be quickly and easily exchanged. Moving forward Cleaver believes engagement with local business is key:

We are looking at the use of the facility for short course delivery as a way of engaging with the local business community helping to develop cyber security resilience across the North of England.

Cyber security apprentice, Katherine Hughes, spent a week training at the cyber security lab and was impressed by how immersive the environment was and how much this aided her learning.

The audio and visuals helped me feel as though the training was real, even though it was all simulated. The use of multiple platforms, such as large touch screen tablets and displays through to projecting images onto walls, was extremely helpful.

Ellie Haggart, Cyber Security Apprentice

Adrienne Easterbrook, general manager, Energus, said the capabilities of the room have exceeded expectations and the next step is engaging with other organisations within the Nuclear Supply chain.

Currently, we are working in the nuclear industry, and that’s been a key focus of ours, but we want to work with local government, local education and the wider business community. Everybody needs some sort of cyber training and it can all be delivered from this lab.

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362 Leach Place, Walton Summit, Preston, PR5 8AS

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