Tech Data opens first Cyber Range, focused on security education, enablement

Cutting the ribbon to open the new Cyber Range in Arizona

CHANDLER, ARIZ. — Tech Data opened what it called the first “cyber range” in the distribution industry this week, a new facility within its offices here that is dedicated to security education and enablement for both partners and the general public.

So what is a cyber range? Alex Ryals, vice president of security solutions for North America, made the analogy of a firing range — a safe environment for those who are focused on protecting companies from cyber-threats to hone their skills and learn new things. And that’s something that’s needed as the security threatscape continues to expand, and the number of trained professionals continues to remain severely constrained.

“It’s really difficult to train security skills, and this is a hands-on place to practice skills that are hard to get,” Ryals said.

The new facility is a 4,500 square foot space in an existing Tech Data office in the Phoenix area, a campus that was once part of Avnet Technology Solutions. Within the facility, the company has four primary goals

Alex Ryals, vice president of security solutions for North America at Tech Data

Perhaps the most important is education and training – building cyber-skills in the partner community and in the community at large, with a particular focus on bringing in youth from high schools and universities to get excited about security. 

“It’s a chance tog et your hands on keyboards and do it,” he said.

The facility will offer both on-site and virtual training courses around security technology, offering training services ranging from free on-demand basic training to more in-depth offerings that partners can resell to their customers. 

Hand-in-hand with that is a goal of building engagement around security. Ryals said his team took a “kid’s science museum” approach to build the space — make everything as interactive as possible and let visitors “touch and feel” what it’s like to be ‘in the trenches’ of cyber-security. On the same note, the site can be used to run events by the company’s partners and vendors to really bring home the security message to end customers.

“Tell the story of cybersecurity, play games with them, do a hacking demonstration,” Ryals suggested.

With a dedicated data centre on-site, the Range also serves as an opportunity to demonstrate the latest in security technology, a chance to kick the tires of new products and build out real-world examples of customers’ security environments (real or desired) to see how it performs.

And finally, with an investment in both “team red” and “team blue” hackers — that is to say, “offensive” and “defensive” approaches to hacking — Ryals said the distributor has the opportunity to introduce new services that it can offer through its partners. 

Workstations for hands-on experiences at the Tech Data Cyber Range

The first two of those offerings, introduced with the new Range, are Attacker’s Insight — a three-day review of how a company’s current security readiness stands from a business standpoint, and Attack Simulation, an even-more in-depth and long-term examination by way of letting the company’s “red team” hackers see what they can find within accepted parameters.

Those services join Tech Data’s existing suite of security-related services, including penetration testing, which have been shuffled under the bailiwick of the Cyber Range team.

The new facility includes a classroom-style training room, the aforementioned data centre, and the main room that can be configured up to about 75 people for events, and features presentation facilities, a simulated security operations centre, and a number of workstations where attendees can get hands-on.

“Bring them in, explode some real malware, get their hands dirty,” Ryals said.

Showing off the Security Operations Centre (SOC) at the Tech Data Cyber Range

While the focus at the facility for in-person events is creating as immersive an experience as possible, the company has also made sure that everything it does — from training to enablement to services — can be offered remotely for training solution providers’ staff or customers wherever they may be.

That remote capability is key to 

One of the distributor’s next steps after the launch of the Cyber Range this week is to develop a “Mobile Range,” the ability to bring some of the tools, capabilities and experiences it offers in the centre and bring them to partners’ and customers’ locations, along with bringing demonstrations to schools and other institutions. The distributor has also already carved out space for a wall dedicated to security in the IoT space in the near future, Ryals said.

The main meeting space of the Tech Data Cyber Range

The Range opens with about 15 Tech Data security vendors as sponsors, and Ryals said the response from the vendor community — from sponsorships to donating technology to the facility — has been outstanding. That’s because the Cyber Range fills a much-needed role in helping to build security skills in the channel, said Stephan Tallent, senior director for MSSP service enablement at Fortinet, one of the Range’s founding sponsors.

“The painter community is so challenged to fill roles, and there’s not a cost-effective way for them to get the kind of training they can get here,” Tallent said, praising the ability to do simulated environments out of the Range.

The ability to do remote training and demonstrations out of the Range is key for Jason Norred, senior director for security at Solutions II, a Colorado-based solution provider. The ability to do simulation and demonstration fills a gap between industry-standard training and vendor-provided education, he said.

“All of our clients are running multiple tools to try to face real challenges,” he said. “How do you train for that without being able to simulate it?”

Ryals said the Range is a result of a year-long vision first developed with Brett Scott, now the director of the Cyber Range, who at the time was building a volunteer operation to provide cybersecurity skills awareness and training. Ryals said he quickly realized the distributor could provide resources to expand upon that vendor-agnostic approach to building security skills and scale it up. 

While the Range is the first fully owned by the distributor, it offers similar capabilities in a partnership with a security organization in Europe, with a Cyber Range located on the grounds of Munich International Airport.

More information about the Cyber Range is available on Tech Data’s website.

Robert Dutt

Robert Dutt is the founder and head blogger at ChannelBuzz.ca. He has been covering the Canadian solution provider channel community for a variety of publications and Web sites since 1997. 

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