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Living our Mission: Project Ares Product Updates, Summer 2020

By Angela Shugarts • Posted almost 2 years ago

Tag:
User Experience
Category:
Product Update

Summer 2020 was a busy time for Project Ares. We recently launched a redesigned website at www.projectares.academy (opens new window) and deployed enhancements to our flagship cyber learning platform, Project Ares. The refreshed web look and feel and product updates inspired a revitalized mission statement.

Project Ares is dedicated to cyber training and education.

  • We help new and seasoned cyber security professionals embrace a new way to train and develop cyber security skills and competencies.
  • We gamify cyber learning so IT and infosec professionals can enjoy cyber training.
  • We make learning cyber hands-on so skills acquisition and maturation is relevant to specific readiness needs.
  • We believe in immersive learning so institutions, organizations and individuals can make persistent cyber training a habitual part of their readiness goals.

Updates to Project Ares enable us to achieve these mission goals. As we continue to focus on hands-on, real-world training (opens new window) that builds rich cyber skills, we have made the following improvements and enhancements.

  1. Tooling
  2. Save Battle Rooms (opens new window)
  3. Power Save Mode
  4. Scenario Loading
  5. Project Ares Demo version (opens new window) to share with friends and colleagues
  6. TOOLING: Some of the tools within the Project Ares learning scenarios were down-level, which did not provide an up-to-date learning experience.

Updated Tools for Improved Stability

To improve stability, we updated operating system and software tools to more current, Azure compatible versions representative of what cyber professionals would see on a network today.

And specifically, to improve offensive scenario tooling, we upgraded Kali Linux from v. 2.0 (Released 2015) 👉 to Kali Rolling 2019.3 (released 2019). This update ensures players are using the current version of a tool or software that they’d likely see in a typical work environment. You’ll now see the updated Kali tool in Project Ares offensive-focused scenarios such as Disable Botnet, Stop Terrorist Financing, and Intercept Attack Plans.

Save Battle Rooms

Great news! Users can now save a Battle Room in the same way that they’ve been able to save Missions!

The state of the Battle Room will be saved for one week so players can come back and pick up where they left off. It is important to remember that saving does not reset the session time limit available to complete the scenario. If a user runs out of session time that is ok! To keep learning, they launch another session and try again.

To resume Battle Room play:

Power Save Mode

We've created a new power save mode to help sustain longer battery life!

Project Ares' immersive and gamified user interface creates an exciting learning environment, but the rich graphics make it a bit CPU and graphic processor intensive on user’s machines.

When a user is using SSH or VNC to get their hack on, the Project Ares game client recognizes a lack of direct activity and goes into hibernation mode – which lowers the computer resources required to run the game client in a user’s web browser. The result is a cooler, quieter computer. When the user returns to the Project Ares game client window, it immediately resumes full animation and function to drive their learning experience.

Shortened Loading Time

Virtual machines, especially ones with complex networks, take time to load and users can get sidetracked with other activities while waiting for the scenarios to be configured.

We are providing better notifications about when scenarios are ready to play, and we are doing it in multiple ways.

Notification from Browser

Notification on Browser Tab

We've also updated the Athena audio notification and included more detailed loading status messages within Project Ares.

Project Ares Demo Version

Are you researching Project Ares (opens new window) and looking for a way to try it out? Or are you a user now and want a way to share Project Ares with friends or colleagues?

We have a free demo version (opens new window) that is available on our website. Interested users can now play an introductory cybersecurity scenario, performing actions on a simulated secure shell terminal and virtual network remote desktop. Someone can click through the interface to learn how the platform works. Get a taste of what a hands-on, gamified cyber range training platform (opens new window) is like.

AND there is more coming! Check out the product directions for both the platform and for new Learning Scenarios (opens new window). We think you’ll find the future of cyber learning bright with Project Ares.

Upcoming for the Project Ares Platform

Check out the links below to see some of our new design concepts

Upcoming Learning Scenarios

As all Project Ares users (opens new window) move into a new Project Ares production environment this fall, we will begin to deploy new cybersecurity content (opens new window). This content includes:

  • Splunk Fundamentals – Upon completion of this scenario, the learner will be able to install and minimally configure the Splunk server in a Windows virtual environment and in a Linux virtual environment.
  • Windows Fundamentals – Upon completion of this scenario, the learner will be able to conduct basic Windows filesystem functions from the command line, including list files and list hidden files, display metadata, modify file permissions, edit text-based files, run executable files, and more.
  • CtF scenarios are new to Project Ares. They are designed to help instructors and trainers assess skill levels. There are no specified learning objectives and there are no hints or help. Users enter into an environment and must use the skills they have to complete the stated activity, finding integrated ‘flags’ along the way.
    • CtF 1 SII London Red Team: The learner must find a way inside a corporate network to discover flags by crafting a malicious payload, identifying critical infrastructure & key resources, leveraging remote exploits, and exploiting simulated users to compromise data.
    • CtF 2 SII San Diego Red Team: The learner must find a way inside the network of a Web Development Team to discover flags by infiltrating public-facing services, identifying trusted networks, laterally moving to internal networks, exploiting system misconfigurations, and compromising data.
    • CtF 3 Internal Web Penetration Test: The learner must compromise an in-house built password reset service by scanning to find vulnerabilities in web and database services, researching potential exploits, creating payloads, and exploiting the vulnerabilities to find the flags.
    • CtF 4 Internal Penetration Test: The learner must find a way inside the Business Development and Research & Development network by scanning for vulnerabilities, actively enumerating the network devices, exploiting remote systems, conducting brute force attacks, conducting binary analysis to identify buffer overflows, and crafting payloads to exploit those buffer overflows.
    • CtF 5 Network Packet Trace Analysis: The learner must be able to apply various packet capture filters to analyze network data captured during a data breach and answer the questions.

These Project Ares updates and upcoming features bode well for an exciting future for cyber learners (opens new window). During dynamic shifts in the cyber industry, Project Ares is dedicated to continually improving so it can help students and professionals build and keep skills sharp against evolving cyber threats. Its patented cyber range-as-a-service technology delivers authentic virtual machine-based exercises so cyber preparation is as true-to-life as it gets.

See you on the training ground!

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