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Champlain College spearheads cybersecurity training in partnership with federal agencies

Interactive virtual environment simulates cybersecurity incidents for realistic, hands-on training for law enforcement


By Adam Goldstein and Ryan Gillen

According to the 2022 Internet Crime Report, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 800,944 cybercrime complaints with total monetary losses exceeding $10.3 billion. Among the top complaints received in 2022 were instances of phishing and personal data breaches. With monetary losses almost doubling since 2021 due to cybersecurity attacks, law enforcement needs to navigate the constantly advancing methods of sophisticated cyber criminals.

The United States Secret Service (USSS) and the National Computer Forensics Institute (NCFI) are taking this issue in stride and have awarded a multi-million dollar contract to Champlain College to maintain, manage and utilize its cyber range — an interactive virtual environment that simulates cybersecurity incidents — and implement a curriculum to train law enforcement across the nation in realistic, hands-on digital forensics and prevention of cyber crimes.

Champlain College, located in Burlington, Vermont, is a nationally recognized leader in cybersecurity and has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the U.S. National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Its central hub of digital forensics and cybersecurity, The Leahy Center, is a world-class laboratory with state-of-the-art technology, providing digital forensics and cybersecurity services to a wide variety of organizations, from government bodies to local businesses.

Since 2019, the College has partnered with the USSS on multiple projects, including working to develop the cyber range and assess the USSS’s cybersecurity curriculum over the past two years. With this latest award and contract, the College will put its cyber range to the test, training law enforcement across the country.

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Secure access to Champlain’s cyber range is configured for law enforcement across the country to participate in NCFI training utilizing the range, and training scenarios can be obtained on any browser. This level of accessibility will allow law enforcement from anywhere in the country who take courses with NCFI to use the range as a part of their training.

While training on the cyber range, law enforcement will focus on the increasing threat of malware and ransomware attacks on businesses. Champlain College faculty and students will use modern tools, techniques and procedures to simulate threat actors compromising networks and executing cyber attacks. Through these simulations, law enforcement personnel will focus on several key aspects: understanding cybercrime, investigation techniques, response strategies and cybersecurity defense.

Champlain College is also planning to develop in-person training sessions that will utilize the cyber range environment. This will help provide new and unique opportunities for training law enforcement agencies depending on their needs.

Not only does the cyber range provide a comprehensive training program for law enforcement, but it also gives Champlain students the opportunity for advanced research in the cybersecurity and cybercrime space. For example, students are currently developing a simulation for a business email compromise scenario involving modern tactics used in hacking hybrid business email environments, like Microsoft 365. As the program moves forward, students will continue to research the most current and pressing threats in the cyber landscape and implement those into the cyber range curriculum.

About the author

Adam Goldstein is an assistant professor at Champlain College and academic director of the Leahy Center. Ryan Gillen is the manager of the Leahy Center at Champlain College.