In an undisclosed location in New Jersey, there's a tiny little town that's used as a training grounds to prepare the US military for cyber warfare. No, tinier than that. Think more like model train sized. It's called CyberCity, and WNYC's New Tech City recently paid a visit.
The little 1:87 scale town is run by the SANS Institute's Ed Skoudis, who explains that it works like a real town, with a hospital and a bank and a coffee shop, and most importantly, plenty of vulnerabilities. Forget digital simulations. Each day, the town is used for drills to prepare modern day soldiers for cyber attacks, in order to get closer to how a real attack would affect a real place.
Skoudis told WNYC:
"If you tell them, 'Hey, one of your folks was able to hack into a power grid and turn the lights back on,' certain people in the military leadership would look at that and say, 'You just showed me that my people can play a video game.' Whereas we can say it was a real power grid. Admittedly controlling a city whose surface area was 48 square feet—but still."
He continues to explain a little bit about how exactly CyberCity works:
"Those people in CyberCity are not physical little people. What they are is, they're data.... Most of the residents have birth records in the hospital, some of them are getting various medical treatments, they have prescription medications – all that stuff is in the hospital. We have social networking inside of Cyber City. We have something very like Facebook, we have something very much like Twitter. We have a newspaper in Cyber City. We call it the Cyber City Sentinel. So for example we'll have a reporter who writes Cyber City Sentinel articles. That reporter also has a bank account. That reporter also has birth records. She has a family. So there's really – I guess the way to describe it is there's a fabric to the citizenry of Cyber City."
That's terrifying. Especially when you think of it in light of recent events, with the massive amount of information exposed in the Sony hack. But also? CyberCity is kind of adorable. Head over to WNYC to hear the full story. [WNYC]
Images via SANS Institute