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MN Cyber Range, premier regional training facility for cybersecurity professionals, opens

The opening of the MN Cyber Range, the first of its kind in Minnesota, represents a unique opportunity for the state's businesses, government agencies, and National Guard to partner with Metropolitan State University to address unprecedented cybersecurity workforce and training demands.


 The U.S. cybersecurity workforce shortage is expected to reach 1.5 million unfilled positions by 2019; an industry survey in February put the number of vacant cybersecurity positions statewide at over 5,400.This shortage of IT professionals with the necessary skills, certifications, and problem-solving and teamwork aptitudes to meet cybersecurity industry needs in Minnesota and the nation is expected to persist for years, and presents a tremendous career opportunity for motivated individuals. Computer science and information security graduates working in cybersecurity can expect to earn a six-figure salary by mid-career (Cyberbit). 


With this installation of the MN Cyber Range, powered by the Cyberbit training and simulation platform known as Cyberbit Range, Metropolitan State and Elbit Systems of America are addressing the challenges of accelerating the preparation of new cybersecurity experts, and providing the training, skills, knowledge, and credentials necessary to professionals in information technology and cybersecurity career fields.


 The event, celebrated May 16 at Metropolitan State University, included a tour of the training classroom and a demonstration of the MN Cyber Range training platform's capabilities. The MN Cyber Range simulator platform is the first and only Cyber Range in Minnesota.


 The event featured remarks from such distinguished Minnesota guests as Rep. Tony Albright (MN Dist. 55B); Brig. Gen. Johanna Clyborne, Commissioner and CIO of Minnesota IT Services; Sharon Kennedy-Vickers,director of Technology and Communications for the City of Saint Paul; and Adjutant Gen. Jon Jensen of the Minnesota National Guard. Elbit Systems of America, based in Fort Worth, Texas, was represented by Scott Evers, vice president, and Angel Martinez, director of product development. 


"This program is Metropolitan State's most recent disruptive solution to a multi-sector human capital logjam. It provides students and career-changers with a laddered career path into the cybersecurity sector," University President Virginia "Ginny" Arthur said at Wednesday's event. "It's happening because we asked, 'How can we help?' We thought outside the box and found outstanding partners. We planned in terms of months instead of years, opened the door to students, and got started." Elbit Systems VP Scott Evers concurred: "We need to exponentially disrupt higher education to bring people into the classroom and drive an 'innovation ecosystem.' I'm convinced Metropolitan State is the place to make this happen."


 The purpose of the MN Cyber Range, headed by Executive Director Faisal Kaleem, is to position Minnesota as a national leader in cybersecurity through education, innovative public/private partnerships, interdisciplinary research, and community engagement. In addition to the MN Cyber Range, the organization's outreach includes the MN Cyber Academy for training professionals, and MN Cyber Pathways, to interest youth K-12 in cybersecurity career fields.


 "The most exciting thing about cybersecurity is that this field probably will never see its demise. The battle between the good and bad guys will never stop. No company, no matter the size or industry, is or will ever be immune to a cyber-breach. We all know technology alone goes only so far. It is the skilled workers who make the difference in protecting sensitive information. Ongoing training is the only solution that boosts agile response to powerful adversaries, who will always challenge organizations in a constantly evolving cybersecurity world," says MN Cyber Executive Director Faisal Kaleem.


  "Cybersecurity readiness is more important than ever," Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in a pre-recorded video address(https://youtu.be/ZgSn4P3xRH4). "This world-class cybersecurity training and simulation platform- the only military-grade cyber training facility in Minnesota - will go a long way in strengthening our state cyber security training capabilities. It will not only help bolster our workforce, but also provide training to agencies, companies and the Minnesota National Guard, ensuring our state is prepared for any kind of attack."


 Cybersecurity is a high-demand field with great industry need. The increasing incidence of cyber-attacks demands highly-qualified cybersecurity professionals. The MN Cyber Range is a simulator platform and has been used elsewhere to train and certify thousands of new IT and cybersecurity professionals. It allows security professionals to advance their careers by staying current in their skills and knowledge of cybersecurity attacks and threat detection. The MN Cyber Range provides up-to-date selections of authentic cybersecurity attack scenarios, including ransomware attacks and even "zero-day" vulnerabilities. Trainees operate in secure settings that accurately replicate network setups, using actual security tools and responding to attacks in the presence of typical network traffic. Classes at the MN Cyber Range training facility and simulation center are set to commence on June 4.


 "One of the most distinctive features of the Cyber Range capability is that it develops team-based skills within organizations and across key critical infrastructure sectors to defend against the most advanced cyber threats facing us today," says Kyle Swanson, MN Cyber Sponsor and dean of the College of Sciences at Metropolitan State University.
 "This is truly a unique opportunity, not only for Metropolitan State, but for the entire state of Minnesota through the forward-thinking public/private partnership that made bringing the Range here possible," says Wilson Garland, MN Cyber Sponsor and director of the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence.


 "The new Cyber Range training facility, with its advanced cybersecurity curriculum, combined with Metropolitan State's business, education and government partnerships, will effectively help to ensure that many more Minnesotans are fully prepared to meet the demands of 21st-century jobs," said Virginia Arthur, president of Metropolitan State University. "We are proud that through our work with Elbit Systems of America, we will position the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities and the state of Minnesota to become a national center of excellence in cybersecurity education and practice."


 For more information, contact Kyle Swanson, dean of the College of Sciences, at 651-793-1681and Kyle.Swanson@metrostate.edu, or Wilson Garland, executive director of Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence and MN Cyber, at (612) 659-7221 and Wilson.Garland@metrostate.edu. Learn more at MNCyber.org


Metropolitan State University, a member of Minnesota State, is the Twin Cities public, urban, comprehensive state university providing lifelong learning, and competitive academic and professional degree programs at the bachelor, master and doctoral levels. 


Elbit Systems of America, headquartered in Fort Worth Texas for more than 25 years, is a leading provider of high performance products, system solutions, and support services focusing on the defense, homeland security, commercial aviation, and medical instrumentation markets.


 Cyberbit Range is a solution developed by Cyberbit, an Elbit Systems' subsidiary. Cyberbit Range is a widely-deployed cybersecurity training and simulation platform, currently training and certifying thousands of cybersecurity professionals in training centers across the globe.