Publication Date

October 2023


An organization's infrastructure rests upon the premise that cybersecurity professionals have specific knowledge in administrating and protecting it against outside threats. Without this expertise, sensitive information could be leaked to malicious actors and cause damage to critical systems. These attacks tend to become increasingly specialized, meaning cybersecurity professionals must ensure proficiency in specific areas. Naturally, recommendations include creating advanced practical training scenarios considering realistic situations to help trainees gain detailed knowledge. However, the caveats of high-cost infrastructure and difficulties in the deployment process of this kind of system, primarily due to the manual process of pre-configuring software needed for the training and relying on a set of static Virtual Machines, may take much work to circumvent.

In order to facilitate this process, our work addresses the use of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and DevOps to automate the deployment of cyber ranges. An approach closely related to virtualization and containerization as the code's underlying infrastructure helps lay down this burden. Notably, placing emphasis on using IaC tools like Ansible eases the process of configuration management and provisioning of a network. Therefore, we start by focusing on understanding what the State of the Art perspectives lack and showcasing the benefits of this new working outlook. Lastly, we explore several up-to-date vulnerabilities that are constantly messing with the lives of individuals and organizations, most related to Privilege Escalation, Remote Code Execution attacks, and Incident Forensics, allowing the improvement of skills concerning Red team and Blue team scenarios. The analysis of the attacks and exploitation of such vulnerabilities are carried out safely due to a sandbox environment.

The expected results revolve around using IaC to deploy a set of purposely-designed cyber ranges with specific challenges. The main objective is to guarantee a complexity of scenarios similar to what we can observe in enterprise-level networks. Thus, this entails having a set of playbooks that can be run in a machine or laboratory, assuring the final state of the network is consistent. We expect this deployment strategy to be cost-effective, allowing the trainee to get deep insight into a wide range of situations.

Nowadays, DevOps solutions work as a silver bullet against the issues derived from old-case-driven approaches for setting up scenarios. In short, one of the key takeaways of this work is contributing to better prepare specialists in ensuring that the principles of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework hold, namely: prevent, detect, mitigate, and recover.