Michigan Cyber Range

The Michigan Cyber Range was established by Merit Network in the summer of 2012 to teach cybersecurity certification courses, provide cybersecurity-related services, and develop a virtual cybersecurity training environment, known as Alphaville. Merit Network staffs and operates the Michigan Cyber Range in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Range's infrastructure contains virtual servers placed on Merit's fiber-optic network, the largest fiber-optic network in Michigan. The harnessing of Merit’s fiber-optic network allows the Michigan Cyber Range to scale the virtual environment (Alphaville) to an unprecedented size. The Michigan Cyber Range currently has five physical locations in Michigan, on the campuses of Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, Wayne State University in Warren, Pinckney High School in Pinckney, WMCAT in Grand Rapids, and University of Michigan in Flint. On the Range, exercises such as a vast Capture the Flag with nearly 500 challenges, Paintball where teams of 5 via over control of Alphaville, and Cyber Sentinel where incident response plans and skills can be tested. These exercises are coupled with cyber security educational classes, workshops, and private secure sandboxes to round out the Michigan Cyber Range’s service offerings.

Michigan Cyber Range
FounderMerit Network
Michigan Cyber Range

Michigan Cyber Range partners include Merit Network, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Energy, National Institute of Standards and Technology, DTE Energy, Consumers Energy, Plante and Moran PLLC, Juniper Networks, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State Police, Michigan's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.


The Michigan Cyber Range was a foundational piece of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's cyber initiative, which was launched in October 2011 to improve cybersecurity efforts to protect families, communities, businesses and government. Merit Network's CEO and President Don Welch who, while a professor, helped create the United States Military Academy's cybersecurity program, worked with David Behen of the State and Brigadier General Mike Stone from the Michigan National Guard to create the vision for the Michigan Cyber Range and secure its start-up funding. Throughout 2012, public and private organizations pledged funds and the Michigan Cyber Range was created and staffed.

William J. "Joe" Adams joined Merit Network in June 2012 as executive director of research and the Michigan Cyber Range. Adams, a career Signal Corps officer in the U.S. Army, was formerly CIO of the National Defense University. Adams has also served as a professor and research scientist at West Point and network engineer for the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.

Shortly after his hiring, Adams assembled a staff to create and maintain the Michigan Cyber Range's cybersecurity training environment, which is called Alphaville. Alphaville is a virtual environment that simulates the computer systems of a small town. Alphaville's components include: a city hall, public library, small business, public school, datacenter, and power company. Each of these components represents a different security scenario. Organizations and companies can practice the detection and mitigation of cybersecurity threats using the Alphaville environment.

On November 9, 2012, Michigan Governor Snyder participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Michigan Cyber Range.

In January 2013, the Michigan Cyber Range began a collaboration arrangement with Mile2, a developer and provider of vendor neutral professional certifications for the cybersecurity industry. Mile2 provides course materials, instructors and certification exams to the Michigan Cyber Range, and the Range offers a full curriculum of training courses in many cybersecurity disciplines. Mile2 is recognized by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) as an Information Assurance (IA) Courseware Institution, and the company is NSA CNSS-accredited as well as NIST and NICCS-mapped.

Organizations and businesses use the Michigan Cyber Range to conduct cybersecurity exercises and simulate various kinds of cyberattacks. On July 24, 2013, members of the West Michigan Cyber Security Consortium (WMCSC) participated in a red team–blue team exercise, where WMCSC team members defended the IT resources of a virtual town from cyber attacks initiated by Michigan Cyber Range staff. The Michigan Cyber Range, members of the West Michigan Cyber Security Consortium (WMCSC) and members of the Michigan Cyber Civilian Corps (MiC3) joined forces again for a second red vs. blue team exercise on the campus of Davenport University on July 23, 2014.

In September 2013, Merit Network introduced a new cybersecurity service, called Merit Secure Sandbox, which uses the infrastructure of the Michigan Cyber Range. Organizations can use the service for cybersecurity exercises, educational purposes, and software testing.

On March 25, 2014, the Michigan Cyber Range opened the first cybersecurity hub of its kind at a U.S. National Guard base, dedicating the facility located at the 110th Attack Wing in Battle Creek, Michigan. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. During the event, teams in Battle Creek participated in cybersecurity exercises with similar teams at the United States Military Academy at West Point and at the California National Guard.

On October 15, 2014, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy conducted an incident response exercise using the Michigan Cyber Range. Representatives from the two power companies and the Michigan State Police worked closely with Michigan Cyber Range staff to create the exercise, called "Power Phoenix", which required participants to diagnose and mitigate a malware-compromised computer network and SCADA environment.

In early 2015, Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD), in conjunction with the Michigan Cyber Range and Mile2, hosted a groundbreaking veteran's retraining program. The 13-week program prepared a group of military veterans for a career in cybersecurity. A total of 17 students participated in the retraining program. The veterans were selected based on their experience and aptitude, in conjunction with Wayne County’s veterans affairs office.

During 2016, the Michigan Cyber Range added new publicly-accessible hubs in Southeast Michigan. Each location provides certification courses, cybersecurity training exercises and product hardening/testing through a direct connection to the Michigan Cyber Range. Cyber Range Hubs opened inside the Velocity Center at Macomb-Oakland University in Sterling Heights on March 1, at Pinckney Community High School on December 7, and at Wayne State University in Warren.

During the fall of 2016, Merit Network and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder launched the Governor's High School Cyber Challenge, a competition for high school students to test their skills in computer science, information technology, and cybersecurity. The final round of the challenge happened at the North American International Cyber Summit, hosted by Governor Snyder on October 17, 2016. The three-person team from Clinton High School was crowned champions of the competition after defeating the 28 other teams in the inaugural event. The Michigan Cyber Range provided the challenges and infrastructure for the annual cyber competition.

Michigan Cyber Range has twice been named the North American Authorized Training Center (ATC) of the year by Mile2.

In 2017, the Michigan Cyber Range doubled the participation in the Governor’s High School Cyber Challenge from 292 high school students to 584. This included successful elicitation of participation from Native American tribal areas in Michigan. Another milestone was the addition of Cyber Range hubs in Florida and Georgia. Continuing their commitment since 2015, the Michigan Cyber Range provides exercises, support, and infrastructure to the US Cyber Challenge, a national cyber competition sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security. Other milestones include the creation of virtual environments to facilitate cybersecurity involvement in kinetic training exercises, creation of an International Cyber Exercise (ICE) to promote collaboration and partnership between states’ National Guard units and the countries participating in the State Partnership Program (SPP), and the successful launch of the Regional Cybersecurity Education Collaboration in partnership with the State of Michigan and Cisco. The ICE event in 2017 was run at the NAICS – 12 states and 10 countries participated.

In October of 2018, the Michigan Cyber Range held a 45 student exercise at the Michigan Governor's Summit. This was one of over 35 exercises held during 2018. Additionally in 2018 Another Cyber Range hub was added, WMCAT in Grand Rapids.

In mid 2019, another Cyber Range hub was opened in Northern Michigan University in Marquette.An event known as the High School Cyber Challenge was run at the end of 2019, featuring a grand total of 200 teams.

In 2020, the Michigan Cyber Range held an exercise during the Merit Member Conference for guests showcasing the capabilities of alphaville.

In 2021, the Michigan Cyber Range held the International Cyber Exercise and the State Wide Capture the Flag. The International Cyber Exercise involved teams from all over the world. These teams competed for control of Alphaville during the Paintball exercise.

See also

  •  Michigan portal


    See also

    •  Michigan portal
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