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Iowa Bill Would Create Cyber Simulation Training Center

The center, which would be located within the Iowa State University of Science and Technology, would focus on training different groups to prevent cyber attacks and deal with active threats.

Iowa State University
In Iowa, a recently proposed bill would stand up a cybersecurity simulation training center at the Iowa State University of Science and Technology.

According to the legislation, the center would be housed within the university’s Center for Cybersecurity Innovation and Outreach and could be used by businesses, state agencies, political subdivisions of the state, students and educators.

Within the center, individuals can "conduct and sponsor research to develop strategies to counter cybersecurity threats and mitigate the damage resulting from a cybersecurity attack," according to the bill.

The center will also hold different cybersecurity training exercises, student events and more.

“The idea came after discussing with several businesses and industries around Iowa to provide ways for entire organizations to participate in realistic cyber events,” said Doug Jacobson, an Iowa State professor in electrical and computer engineering. “Through that discussion, the idea of a cyber sports complex where we can try out different scenarios came about.”

"We are glad we are doing this with Iowa State," Rep. Dave Williams said. "The appropriation to create the center would bring in groups with various needs to train them with gaming exercises if that’s what it takes.”

Specifically, gaming theory, which has been used in cybersecurity to understand the nature of cyber incidents, could help model and create training exercises.

However, rather than focus on security from a defensive perspective, the center would instruct individuals on how to deal with cybersecurity events internally or multi-organizationally.

“Defenders are always under constant training,” Jacobson said. “But if something bad happens, often the front office has to deal with it, so we need to provide everyone with the opportunity to practice.”

As for potential exercises carried out in the center, Jacobson explained activities may include engaging in games that are more tech-focused, mimicking an organization boardroom and emulating scenarios like speaking with the FBI about a cyber event, along with multidimensional department exercises.

Rep. Brian Lohse touched on the importance of working with the university and providing any necessary public resources to get the ball rolling.

“Iowa State University has a tremendous presence within the IT field,” Lohse said. “I met with their person who leads their cybersecurity division and spoke with them about this idea of having a place where businesses and public-sector areas can come and get training on these things.”

The idea for the center has also spurred other university initiatives, such as a new minor program and student-based cyber competitions.

The minor program would allow students with non-tech backgrounds to learn about cybersecurity through a capstone course. It would also share how students might have to deal with cybersecurity relative to their daily jobs.

Jacobson added that competition scenarios could be built by undergraduate students, providing an opportunity to interact with the public and expand the student workforce.

“This is a great opportunity,” Jacobson said. “We can see interesting exercises that are multidimensional and working with people with business, marketing, public relations and other backgrounds.”
Katya Diaz is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University.