Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now


Energus Cyber Lab readies the next generation of cybercrime fighters

The new Cyber Lab is the result of a collaboration between the NDA and Energus and provides an immersive learning space where apprentices can experience simulated cyber attacks in an authentic, controlled environment.

Cyber security is a hot topic with companies being targeted daily and data security breaches regularly making headlines. Organisations rely heavily on technology to store large amounts of sensitive data and support daily working practices, so it’s imperative that systems are in place to protect IT networks from hackers. A new training facility, at the Energus building in Cumbria, has been funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to tackle the cyber security skills gap and lead the fight against cybercrime.

The new Cyber Lab is the result of a collaboration between the NDA and Energus. Funded by the NDA through its Cyber Security and Resilience Project, the initiative provides an immersive learning space where apprentices can experience simulated cyber attacks in an authentic, controlled environment. Security was a key objective for the Cyber Lab due to the sensitive nature of the training facility, which is why integrators Pure AV chose to work with Crestron control technology.

The Cyber Lab, the first of its kind in the North West of England, is an important part of the strategy to build resilience against cybercrime. 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.

Disparate technologies
Energus set out to create an immersive experience with impact within a space that would not look anything like a standard classroom. They needed a system fully isolated away from the Energus production network, to allow the simulation of virus attacks without risk to the Energus network.

Third-party AV equipment doesn’t always have high levels of security, providing a potential weak spot that cyber attackers take advantage of. To overcome this risk, Pure AV installed a Crestron CP3N 3-Series control system processor to integrate disparate technologies onto one easy-to-manage and secure control platform. The CP3N 3-Series provides a separate isolated subnet for sensitive applications, which enabled Pure AV to protect controlled ecosystems – such as lighting and AV equipment – via a separate LAN control subnet port.

“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,” explains Colin Hasted, system specialist at Pure AV.

“We wanted an immersive learning environment, fully isolated from our production network so that anything that happens within this environment, stays in here,” adds Bradley Cleaver, business service manager at Energus.

Pure AV worked closely with brand design agency FPP to develop the visual concept for the space and the end result combines dynamic lighting and striking room graphics to create an instant impact on learners.

Active engagement
The audiovisual system designed by Pure AV enables the flexible delivery of teaching content and active engagement between apprentice and course leader as they learn how to tackle viruses and experience simulated cyber attacks.

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 straightforward.

The CP3N 3-Series supports the AV and lighting control within the workspace, including five wall-mounted display devices and a touch table situated in the centre of the room that students can gather around for collaborative problem solving.

The user interface based around a Crestron TSW-1060 10in 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. The tutor has the ability to change the look, feel and atmosphere of the room 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.

“The lighting and graphics immerse the apprentices in the learning space,” says Cleaver. “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.”

As for the impact the facility has had on the first group of apprentices, Katherine Hughes, cyber security apprentice, comments: “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 touchscreen tablets and displays through to projecting images onto walls, was extremely helpful.”

Scott Campbell, a Level 4 cyber security apprentice, says: “The classroom is way beyond my expectations and I feel privileged to be one of the first apprentices to use the facility.”

The NDA’s Cyber Lab programme is part of a long-term commitment to fighting cybercrime, with the NDA looking to invest £80 million over the next five years. There are currently nine apprentices training at the Cyber Lab, with a second cohort due to join the scheme later this year.

“The capabilities of the room have exceeded expectations and the next step is engaging with other organisations within the nuclear supply chain,” explains Adrienne Easterbrook, general manager, Energus. “Currently, we are working in the nuclear industry, 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.”

“We have created a facility which addresses a national demand for cyber security capability, to deliver the best quality young people to work in the industry,” concludes Colin Reed, director of Energus and chairman of the National College for Nuclear.