‘Cyber Warfare Range’ class teaches hacking in order to stop it


Can you crack a password? Clone a keycard? Break into a computer system?

The new Arizona Cyber Warfare Range in Phoenix is a place to enhance your skills or train for a career in cybersecurity.

Do you have trouble finding your laptop’s power button? That’s cool, you can come too.

Wednesday was the grand opening of the 4,500-square-foot cybersecurity facility, which partners with Grand Canyon University and the Arizona Cyber Threat Response Alliance, a cyber information sharing organization.

GCU students, as well as the public, can learn how to protect against data breaches and other cybercrimes, and tap free resources such as laptops, servers and trained volunteers.

Inside the “range,” students learn, essentially, how to be a bad guy, said Brett Scott, co-founder of the facility. They’ll get to know what the hackers know.

“We want to teach you how to attack,” Scott said. “Because, how on earth can you defend something if you don’t know how to be attacked?”

Scott compared a defense-only curriculum to the military only learning how to strap on a bullet-proof vest.


The training is free for all and caters to every skill level, including the highly advanced.

“There is no after-us training,” Scott said. “So as good as you want to be, we will get you there.”

The new site, at the GCU Innovation Center at 27th Avenue and Camelback Road, is the second edition of the nonprofit facility. The original opened in Mesa in 2012.

GCU, for-profit Christian university, is looking to carve a niche for itself in the expanding arena of cybersecurity education. The school is known for its nursing and education programs but has been looking to secure a foothold in what’s known as the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field.

“As we’re evaluating our curriculum, we’re trying to identify areas that have high job growth, and this sort of screams that,” said Bob Romantic, a GCU spokesman. “There’s certainly a need — not only are there a lot of jobs but there are good-paying jobs.”

There are currently 285,000 open positions in cybersecurity nationally, and 6,800 in Arizona, according to Cyberseek.org. The average pay for a cybersecurity analyst is $92,600, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

GCU offers a Bachelors of Science with an emphasis in cybersecurity and is one of the only universities in the country to offer a master’s degree in the field, according to GCU President Brian Mueller.

In 2015, Arizona State University launched the “Global Security Initiative,” a multidisciplinary center for research. And beginning next fall, the university will require all computer science majors to take an introductory course in information assurance and cybersecurity training.

Nadya Bliss, director of the Global Security Initiative and professor of practice in ASU’s School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering, attributes the growth in cybersecurity education to the proliferation of computers.

“It used to be the only things that were computers were computers,” she said, noting today they are inside smartphones, cars, smart home technology and personal assistant devices. “Computing is now everywhere and it’s important to have a well-trained, well-educated workforce for (a) diversity of different positions.”

Cybersecurity threats have gained national attention in recent years, largely due to high-profile data breaches.


Equifax, one of the three giants in consumer credit reporting, this September announced that hackers had gained access to its data, exposing the Social Security numbers and birth dates of as many as 145.5 million Americans.

According to Cybersecurityventures.com as many as 1 in 3 people have been hacked in the United States, and the predicted cost of cybercrimes worldwide is expected to reach $6 trillion by 2021.

John Iannarelli, a retired FBI agent, spoke in support of the industry training Wednesday at the range’s opening.

“The reality is we are at war,” he said. “And if we don’t win this war, many of the things we take for granted will no longer exist. It is a cyberwar that we’re facing.”

Iannarelli encouraged anyone thinking about a career in cybersecurity to stop by.

“This is job security for the future,” he said.

A range calendar and more information can be found at azcwr.org or by calling 623-300-2002.

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