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Getting Started with the Cyber Range Transcript


Hello everyone. My name is Sean and I am one of the support team members for the Cyber Range. Today we're going to be covering how to get started in the Range. We're going to cover a few topics, such as how to create an account, how to create a course, and how to navigate to the knowledge base, so that you can get some help if you ever have any features that you want to learn about. So one other note before we get started is if you have used the Cyber Range before a lot of the content we're going to cover in this session will be a bit of a review for you; however, you might pick up a few tips and tricks here or there. If you wanted to learn a little bit deeper information about the Exercise Area, Cloud CTF or the Courseware Repository we're going to have separate sessions for a deeper dive into each of those topics. Check out the Whova schedule for a little bit more information on the times for those sessions. Now we can go ahead and jump into this.

Create an Account

So the first thing we're going to want to do in order to get started in the Range is create an account. If you are a public educator in the state of Virginia then you do qualify to use the Virginia Cyber Range which is funded by a state grant. If you don't fall within those requirements then you can also use the U.S. Cyber Range which offers the same exact tools as the Virginia Cyber Range but it is for anyone who might be teaching outside of the state of Virginia or anyone who is teaching at a private institution, so we do have options either way.

In the demo today, I'm going to be using the Virginia Cyber Range but the interface is very very similar between Virginia Cyber Range and the U.S. Cyber Range, so feel free to follow along even if you're planning to join under the U.S. Cyber Range side. Now I can go ahead and jump into a web browser and show you how to do the sign up process.

The first thing you're going to want to do is make sure that you navigate to If you want to sign up for the U.S. Cyber Range side you navigate to And you're going to want to click on the sign up button here. On the left side here you'll see an instructor sign up option. As long as you are a cyber security educator in Virginia you can click on yes. And within this form you'll just need to fill out some information about yourself: your name, email, institutional email address... I just said that... but also your job title and your school. The important thing about the email is that you include your institutional email address rather than a personal address, and this is so that we can verify that you are an actual public educator in Virginia, so just make sure to use that email that is issued to you by your school or school district.

Now I already did create an account for testing or for this demo so we're going to cancel this for now. But one other note, I just wanted to let you know that once you submit that form your request is going to come to the support team and we're going to approve or deny it depending on if you qualify for the Range. And as long as you do qualify we will send you an invitation link. That invitation link will look very similar to this (a simple email that will include a pre-generated invitation link) and all you have to do is click on that link and that will prompt you to choose an authentication provider. It'll be Google, Microsoft or Facebook and once you choose your authentication provider and you get logged in through their interface, then you have an account created.

Once you do that you can always come back to the home page to log in and I'm going to do just that. So if we click on the login button, I created an account using Google, so I can use "Sign in with Google." And here's my account (I know you didn't see that little pop-up but there's usually going to be a little pop-up window where you can do that authentication step). And here we go, this here is the Exercise Area. This is where you're going to be doing a lot of your managing of your course and your users, you'll spend quite a bit of your time in the Cyber Range in the Exercise Area, but I want to give you a quick tour of some of the other features.

Courseware Repository

So I'm going to click back into the courseware section. And before we continue here, I just wanted to give you a quick rundown of what we're going to be covering here. We're going to be looking at the courseware repository, the community section, resources, the knowledge base, and the exercise area. So let's jump back to our web browser and so we're going to start in the courseware repository if you were at the home page here you would just need to click on courseware at the top and our coursework repository has a whole large selection of different courseware-related content to help you teach your course we have syllabi, we have homework assignments, interactive labs as well as presentations to help guide your course.

You're more than welcome to take those and build on them and add additional customizations to that coursework content and it's just a really great resource to help you get your course set up. This search bar search functionality is very helpful if you're looking for a specific topic, let's say maybe penetration testing, so we can type pen testing here (in the search bar) and as we see here there is a module on penetration testing. I'm going to leave some of the deeper exploration of the courseware repository for the other session so if you are able to, definitely go check out the coursework repository session to learn a little bit more about that or feel free to explore it on your own and see exactly what you can do with the repository.

Community Section

And the next thing we're going to go into is the community section. This just has a few different resources that will help you get connected with the the community of cyber security educators in Virginia. One thing that is here is a link to sign up for our newsletter, if you're interested. We do send out newsletters that include information about different events and just general news about the cyber security community. Next we have the resources section. There's a couple of really cool resources here that will help you plan out your course, a few resources here will also help map some of the tools in the Cyber Range to the curriculum that you're using for your own course so definitely check those out a couple of really nice useful tools are available there.

Knowledge Base Introduction

The next thing we're going to cover is how to get to the knowledge base and the knowledge base can be found behind this little question mark (In the page header) you can click on knowledge base. And this is an entire set of articles that our support team maintains and we have information on how to use basically every tool within the Cyber Range. They're categorized here and you also have the ability to search through different articles. For example, I can type in login here. First couple of articles involve logging into the Cyber Range. So if you're ever confused or stuck I recommend checking out the knowledge base and if you still get stuck after that always feel free to reach out to the support team we're always ready to help. So that covers the the knowledge base. We're going to go a little bit deeper into the knowledge base a little later in the session but for now that should be a good introduction.

Exercise Area

So the last place we're going to check out in our little tour here is the Exercise Area. So if we just click on exercises at the top of the our main webpage we can go back to the Exercise Area. So you'll know for sure that you're in the Exercise Area when you see your URL change to console dot. ( or So once you see that console there (as the subdomain)that's how you know that you're in the Exercise Area and you'll also notice that the UI just generally looks a bit different here (compared to the homepage).

So in the Exercise Area I'm signed in as an instructor and you'll see any courses that you have currently created if you don't have any you won't see any courses yet but you will have the option to create courses as you need them. So that brings me to the next topic we're going to talk about, the Exercise Area and in the Exercise Area we're going to cover a few really important features for it. We're going to show you how to request a course, how to provision an exercise environment, how to manage your users, and how to manage your virtual machines, so let's jump back into the Exercise Area and show you how to do all of those things.

So the first thing we're going to show you is how to request a course. I have one here, but we're going to request a new one as a test. So the form that comes up and let me make sure that was clear, the button I clicked in order to request a new course is near the top right that little plus symbol (create a course button) and when you click on that, that's when this form comes up. So you'll give your course a name and a description and this text box is pretty important (Justification). As part of our goal with the Virginia Cyber Range, you need to make sure that the courses are actually related to cyber security. So this is your chance to give us a little bit more background on the course that you're teaching and let us know exactly how it connects to cyber security. So the next couple of fields that you'll need to fill out are the school and this will should be relatively self-explanatory. Just find your school within that list and make sure you select that. And for the reserved enrollments you'll just want to include however many students you have in your course and that way we can try to have virtual machines ready to go depending on how large your course is going to be. So that covers how to request a course whenever that does happen or whenever you do request your course, very much like the account request, our support team is either going to confirm or deny your request and if we do accept your request then you'll see your course pop up here in the Exercise Area. So we're going to click on the course that was created earlier and next I'm going to show you how to provision a new exercise.

So you can think of an exercise as or exercise environment as a small virtual subnet that each student is going to have assigned to them. It can have one or more virtual machines that are connected to each other and they're in their own isolated networking bubble. So they're not going to be able to connect to any other machine on the internet including your students won't be able to have their machines connect to each other either. So every student will have their own little bubble per exercise environment and I'll show you something that might help a little bit with that concept but let's just jump right into how to provision a new exercise environment.

So you see I have one environment here which is Ubuntu 18 xfce and Ubuntu 18 with SSH now we can click on add exercise environment to look at the other options. We have a whole bunch of different environments that are created and you can take any one of these and customize it, and we'll cover how to do customizations in the more advanced topic session but for now we can kind of just pick one of these environments and open it up so let's see... let's go with something like the Brigante environment. And whenever you're selecting a new environment, you can read through the description it'll give you an idea of what exactly is possible in that specific environment and in this case Brigante is a cyber security game and yeah it's something that's pretty cool it's definitely something I would recommend checking out if you've never seen it before but we're going to go ahead and provision this one we can click on confirm once we're ready. Perfect! So you'll see this is loading up and that usually just takes a few seconds to get that environment loaded. So this is our page for whenever you click into an exercise environment. So that part is good to go, now we are not going to focus too much on the virtual machines quite yet we'll come back to them, but something I wanted to show you before we get started with that is how to do user management.

So most likely if you're teaching a course you're going to have some users that are going to need to get invited and the way to invite users is through this manage course users button. So it's right here near the top right and the way we're going to do this is we have a few different options actually there's three ways so we can do individual user invites, we would just need to include their name their email and the role that we want to give them. Or we can go with inviting multiple users, you could use Google Classroom integration or you can use a csv. We do have guides on all these things in our knowledge base so if you want to learn a little bit more definitely check those guides out but for now we're going to demonstrate how to do the csv method. So with the csv method you would download this template that's here in the instructions and that template is really just going to be a few names or a few different columns I mean and the columns will have a name the email and the role that you want to give to the user. So, I've already filled out the template and we can see what it looks like once you've done that.

So once you fill out the template, you're going to see you have a review page so you can make sure everything looks good here. I have a couple of users that I added into that template along with their their username their email and the role I want them to have. That looks good to me so I can import those. And what this is going to do is it's going to add it into our users page and it's also going to send out email invites to each of the the users that we're adding. So it looks just like that (simple email with invitation link) so then your users will just have to click on the invitation link much like when you create a new instructor account the students are just going to need to click on that invitation link and sign right up.

And then one other option you have in terms of inviting your users to your course is you can provide them with an invitation code. It'll look... when you click on... I'm sorry, when we're on the users page we need to click on these two angle brackets (Invitation Code button) and that's how you manage the invitation code. And all you'll need to do is click on create an invitation code and this will be a code that's valid for one week, and you provide this code to your students and have them visit the registration URL. So you'll want to provide them this URL and the page will look just like this: "Register for a Course" and then you'll want to also provide them the code which will link them to your actual course. So here we can click back into this page when we paste it, it should automatically... we just got to make sure we have the right number of characters... So this is exactly what it'll look like so your students will see that they're registering for your course depending on whatever course name you have, and they will be given the option to sign up with Google, Facebook or Azure AD. So that's exactly how you get that set up, you just provide those two things: the URL and the invitation code, and your students can self-register from there. That could be a really convenient option especially if you have a really large course you may not want to be handling a really large, you know, csv file to import a whole bunch of users and I'm sure you probably don't want to do it one by one so definitely a good option depending on the size of your course, it could be a really good option. So that's basically everything you need for user creation. One more note here about the invitation code, once you've gotten all your users signed up, if you don't want to have any stragglers coming into the course late then you can always just click on the delete button and that invitation code is no longer valid.

So we can go back to the course page and you can see we always have these breadcrumbs here on the top left, so if you are not sure where you are in the whole structure just take a look here at the breadcrumbs. So I'm back in my Getting Started with the Cyber Range course and I'm going to do a quick look at the Ubuntu 18 environment. So we can click on that and we can click on start. Alright so after just a moment for those virtual machines to actually boot up we see that we no longer have the power button but we have the play and stop button. So we can go ahead and click on the play button if we want to jump into the environment.

You see here that there's actually two machines that are part of this environment. Like I mentioned earlier these two machines are actually going to be networked together so there is communication between these two machines but there's no communication outside of the Range. Now, we do understand that a lot of online utilities would be very helpful while you're actually in the virtual machine so we do use a web proxy in order to still have some http & https traffic. So your students would still be able to let's say visit something like Google Drive to grab a file but they wouldn't be able to visit social media websites as there is a filter in place to make sure that the websites that are visible are productive websites and you know not something that they shouldn't be using during class time.

So we can click on the first (virtual machine) the And there is a clipboard functionality within the virtual machine and we do have an article in our knowledge base on how to use that. I can definitely provide that to everyone but for the moment we're just going to look at how the networking works between two different virtual machines. So what we can see in the description of the virtual machine is that we have a primary machine called That's the one with the GUI that we're using here and if we want to target the second machine that's the DNS hostname that they have for that is so we can do some very simple networking. Obviously, if you wanted to do some actual cyber security exercises, you're probably going to want to do things that are a lot more complicated than this, but just as a quick demonstration of the networking capabilities we can, for example, ping And we see that it is having successful pings, and we can stop that. And as we see the six packets were received with no packet loss so that's just a really quick demonstration that you have this communication channel between the virtual machines that are in a single exercise environment. But this wouldn't go outside of these couple of virtual machines so you couldn't use your Ubuntu 18 xfce virtual machine and ping the Brigante virtual machine. They're two separate exercise environments so they're going to have their own network bubble. So hopefully that part is relatively clear.

One other note for just kind of managing your virtual machines you might hear the support team use the word reset for resetting a virtual machine or you might find that in our documentation within our knowledge base and it's important to understand the difference between rebooting a virtual machine and resetting a virtual machine. So a lot of times when you're rebooting a virtual machine all you'd really need to do is come into the UI click on the stop button and that'll basically shut down the virtual machine and then by rebooting we're really just saying, you know, stop it and start it up again. Now if we were talking about resetting the virtual machine that is a different functionality of the Range. Resetting the virtual machine will essentially set it back to its initial state and any work that you might have done on the virtual machine will be lost. So that's more of a last resort option if you maybe broke (and it definitely happens sometimes and it's a great learning experience for students) if you happen to have broken the connection between the virtual machine and the Cyber Range, maybe you added a incorrect firewall rule and then the virtual machine is basically blocking the ability to connect to it. You're not going to necessarily be able to fix it by just rebooting the machine but you might need to actually reset it to its stock default state. So once this is finished stopping, I'll show you what it looks like to reset and from there we should be able to move on into the section on the knowledge base.

Alright so here we go we have stopped the virtual machine, so that unlocks a couple of other options once we stop it. We can click on this reset button which, like I mentioned, will set this environment all the way back to its default state and once you have a few different students you can do this on a per student basis, so if one student broke their virtual machine it doesn't mean you have to reset all of them. You could just reset one virtual machine using this button in the UI. And then you also have the option to make a copy of the virtual machine. This will basically take a snapshot of that one virtual machine that can be re-provisioned as a separate exercise environment. This will basically allow you to go into an environment customize it the exact way you want it, maybe you want to have some some exercise files ready to go on that virtual machine, you can customize it, make a copy of it, and then re-provision it to the rest of your course and Lee is going to be covering how that works exactly in his session for the more advanced topics within the Exercise Area, so definitely check that out it's really cool stuff.

So if we were just rebooting this machine we could just click the start button again and once it's loaded up it's that's an effective reboot and a reboot could be helpful for fixing a couple of anomalies it's usually going to be one of the earlier steps in troubleshooting, but like I mentioned, if the reboot doesn't do anything for you, you might need to reset that environment and I'm not necessarily going to do that right now. We didn't really do anything in the environment so there's really no reason to but I just wanted to make sure that it was clear that that feature does exist if needed. So that covers everything we were going to talk about for the Exercise Area, quite a lot of information and if you have any questions feel free to drop those in the Whova chat. We will be monitoring those and we can answer anything you have.

Knowledge Base Deep Dive

So the last little topic I wanted to cover for today is going to be the knowledge base. We've made quite a lot of changes to the knowledge base in the last year or so and we can pull up the knowledge base in our web browser. Let's jump back into it and talk about some of these topics so you can always find the knowledge base at one of these question marks in the top right. And here we go, we're back at the knowledge base and we're going to cover a couple of features that have been updated in the last year or so.

So the first is our new navigation system so we now use tabs as our primary navigation tool and from each tab you can see there is a list of articles along the left side and each article will have three sections. So let's use, let's say, this exercise environment catalog as an example. Along the left side you'll be able to jump between the different articles in this category, so there's a whole bunch of different articles in our features section. On the right side, you'll see a table of contents of that article. This one's pretty long because we have a bit of a description and more information for each of our exercise environments. If there was one in particular that you wanted to learn about, maybe Debian 10, you can click on that, it'll take you right to that section and within that section you'll see these little permalinks. If you click on a permalink you'll see your URL in the URL bar will update to that permalink and you can always, if you wanted to share a direct link to that one section, you can always right click and copy link and if you paste that in another browser you'll see it'll take you right to that section. So those are some of the changes that we've made in terms of navigating the knowledge base but we can go back to the top here in the overview.

And another big thing that we've been working on is accessibility. We want users and students to be able to use the knowledge base with things like screen readers to make sure that it's an accessible tool for anyone who wants to use the Cyber Range. We've been working on this on both the knowledge base side and the main Cyber Range side. So a few examples of improvements that have come about in the last few months are improvements to tab navigation. So you'll notice that the tab indication as to where you are on the page is pretty clear we have a nice high contrast box around whatever section that you're currently tabbed on. You can navigate around the KB that way just by hitting enter wherever you are currently tabbed, you can even tab to get into the search bar so that's pretty helpful. We've made a lot of changes to the alternate text and any labels that we need to make sure that screen readers are actually compatible with the site. So if you were navigating through the site with a screen reader you should be able to know where you are and really navigate through all the different resources. So that has been a big project that we've been working on this year and we have a majority of the things that we need to make this pretty accessible at this point. We'll continue working on improving it even further as we move forward as well.

And another thing I wanted to show you were a couple of popular articles that are really useful in the Cyber Range. So one section that you'll probably use quite a bit when you're first starting with the Range is the Getting Started section. This is going to include some articles such as the getting an instructor account which will show you in a more step-by-step text form of what we kind of covered early on in this session, it'll show you how to get an account, how to create your course, and some of these articles here are probably going to be the most useful for you. Another really helpful thing is we have articles that are geared towards students so you can create your own course and follow along with that but then you can also provide a link to your students so that they can understand how to get into the Cyber Range. So for example, if you sent out email invitations to your students you can always just click on this section about joining a course via invitation link which is the one through the email and then you can share this URL with your students and they should be able to follow along and get into the Range. So great resource for getting set up and doing everything you need at the start. One other article I did want to highlight that you would likely find pretty helpful is a description of the different permission levels for the different users you can have. So this will tell you: what permissions does a TA have versus a student versus you as the instructor. So definitely another article that I recommend checking out. There's a lot of different permissions, so I'm not going to go and read through all of them but again an awesome resource to learn about those different permissions.


And that should cover just about all the content that we're going to be talking about for this session if you still had any other questions, you can drop some questions in the Whova chat and we will have a short Q&A session after this presentation. Additionally you can submit a ticket either through the email address or you can do it through the Cyber Range UI using the question mark button. I'll show you that real quick all you have to do is, when you're logged in already, click on this question mark here (in the header of the page) and click the support button. Just fill out that form it'll submit a ticket and will help you with whatever problem you're having. So I just wanted to thank everyone for coming to this session and I look forward to meeting a whole bunch of you throughout the rest of the conference!