CyberEDU - a virtual polygon for the cybersecurity community

CyberEDU - a virtual polygon for the cybersecurity community

CyberEDU aims to be the meeting place for the cybersecurity community. We are glad to have their team as part of Orange Fab. We spoke to Florina Dumitrache, Co-founder and CEO of CyberEDU about what the platform is all about and what plans they have for expansion.

Orange Romania, together with Bit Sentinel, organizes again this year UNbreakable Romania - a competition dedicated to highschool and university students along with cybersecurity enthusiasts, taking place on the platform developed by CyberEDU. You can find out more about the event here.

Tell us a few words about CyberEDU and who is the team behind the project.

CyberEDU started back in 2020 as a virtual polygon for the cybersecurity community. The team behind the ideas has been working together for many years on different projects related to cybersecurity - like DefCamp, the European Cyber Security Challenge, Bit Sentinel - so we were quite familiar with managing tasks in the team and making the most of our expertise.

Me and Andrei Avădănei started CyberEDU and we are leading the current team of 6 people. Most of the team members are highly technical, managing mostly the content creation on the platform and the development side. We also have two amazing advisors we’ve met during our participation in the pan-European IMPACT EDTech program who are helping us with valuable insights from their wide expertise in both education and business.

Why build this platform?

​​We’ve always wanted to have such an environment for practicing cybersecurity, and I suppose it was just a matter of finding the right time and resources to start working on it. 2020 was that perfect time because we wanted to have a special training playground to learn and improve cybersecurity skills using hands-on labs. Also, it was doubled by the need we identified while organizing DefCamp Hacking Village - to keep the cybersecurity competitions open for a longer period of time after the conference ended.

Moreover, for 2021, (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study estimates there are 4.19 million cybersecurity professionals worldwide, which is an increase of more than 700,000 compared to last year but it’s not even close to filling all open positions in cybersecurity. This is the second consecutive year when the cybersecurity workforce gap has decreased, down to 2.72

million compared to 3.12 million last year. In Europe alone there is a need for almost 200,000 professionals to cover cybersecurity skills in companies and it’s still very challenging to find them.

Why? Well, the main struggle in practicing cyber security is that you need real environments to gain practical skills and experience in the field.

The issue is that security incidents happen so rarely that they are not an ideal way to practice incident response and digital forensics skills. Whereas if you want to learn offensive skills, useful for penetration testing, for example, you always need approval from the infrastructure and service owner.

In order to overcome these challenges, we proposed a gamified approach towards building labs and infrastructures with some much needed advantages:

  • They are available on demand so anyone can practice at their own pace
  • They are inspired by real-life scenarios so you know that the skills you are gaining can help you in your career
  • They are backed by educational resources that guide students step by step in the process

We had the motivation, we had the idea and the resources and we started working on it. The rest came naturally on the way and we are very proud of the outcome.

What is the current status of the products and the stage of the company

In just two years’ time, we did A LOT, I have to admit. First, we worked and focused our efforts on having a solid infrastructure able to keep up with the technology that ran on the platform and then to be highly scalable.

Next, we added a competition module so we could host all our (and others’) cybersecurity competitions without any issues.

We managed to hit success after success.

In less than a year after the official launch, we hosted the DefCamp Capture the Flag (DCTF) competition  LIVE on the platform, with over 2000 users at the same time and everything ran smoothly. I can wholeheartedly say we passed our first test.

We then invested in content creation and now we have more than 350 labs mapped on industry standards such as MITRE and OWASP to help users have an overview on real skills applicable in current jobs worldwide.

Currently, we’re focusing on growing the user database and getting to know the academic sector better. We also want to strengthen the connection we have with the local universities, and this is possible with the support of Orange Romania and Orange Fab. We believe it’s important to bridge the gap between the academic sector and the business environment and be ready to work with universities and prepare the future generation of cyber security specialists.

In terms of numbers, we hosted over 60 private and public events on the platform, and now almost 10,000 users are using our technology to practice and learn cyber security.

What kind of competitions are you hosting on CyberEDU?

Cybersecurity is an industry where you, as a professional, need to constantly learn and improve your skills: the new and emerging technologies bring lots of opportunities for hackers, which results in a lot of tough work for the infosec experts. When it comes to staying up to date with the new attack techniques or vulnerabilities, cybersecurity competitions are a gold mine.

Actually, that is why we first implemented this feature into CyberEDU: because learning while competing is more effective than taking a course or training.

As I mentioned before, we have hosted more than 60 private and public competitions and initiatives on CyberEDU since the beginning. We now have the possibility to host both individual and team competitions, as well as workshops with different trainers that can follow performance and measure results.

We are proud to have hosted the Romanian Cyber Security Challenge (ROCSC), the entire DefCamp 2021 Hacking Village competitions (+10 events at the same time), Brasov CyberArena and, last but not least, every edition of UNbreakable Romania.

Last year we also had a premiere on CybeEDU: we had the opportunity to host a King-of-the-Hill style competition in order to encourage attack-defense style competition under the DefCamp Hacking Village umbrella, and it was an amazing experience!

We are convinced that the competition area will keep evolving towards more and exciting activities that involve gamification, teamwork and, of course, prizes.

How many users are active? What about the number of participants of UNbreakable Romania?

So far, the user database has grown only organically over these two years and we are close to reaching 10,000 users.

One of our dearest projects is UNbreakable Romania which manages to bring and engage more than 1.5k users every year on CyberEDU, in the largest Romanian cyber security educational program. We are proud to be part of this phenomenon and we will most definitely do our best to keep on going and find more potential talents to train them for a future career in cyber security.

What are the future plans for CyberEDU?

For the future, we have two main directions we would like to follow:

  • To develop, together with Orange Romania, a dedicated training for the academic sector to increase cyber security capabilities at a university level. The focus will be mainly on creating a specific syllabus for blue team skills needed in a SOC, but it won’t be limited to only that;
  • To create career paths for both individuals and teams that want to follow a specific path towards learning cyber security.

At the same time, we are working around the clock to further develop the platform and add new features that will allow us to move faster to the next level. From a growth perspective, starting mid year we will focus on building international partnerships to help us expand across other European markets as well as looking towards European funds that can offer us a boost to grow the team faster.  

Cybersecurity is a topic of general interest and we want to support young people who want to get educated so we are glad to be part of the UNbreakable Romania competition.

Want to test the CyberEDU platform? You can start with the UNbreakable Romania competition.