2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Cybersecurity Education: RunLabs Rapidly Create Virtualized Labs Based on a Simple Configuration File

Presented at Emerging Computing and Information Technologies I

The cornerstone in educating the future workforce in cybersecurity in higher education is experiential learning. Cybersecurity competitions are shown to have the potential to increase the workforce and encourage students to pursue the field of cybersecurity. Virtual laboratories allow emulating real life cyber threats and rapid generation of multiple scenarios and infrastructures. The purpose of RunLabs project was to create a lab infrastructure to allow instructors to generate virtualized environments rapidly. Instructors can create virtual lab for students easily, with a simple configuration file. The methods used for RunLabs creation consist of a javascript object notation (JSON) configuration file that creates virtual machines with specified network configuration. In addition, it creates virtual network computing (VNC) service for each virtual machine with a random password, which allows students to be able to access the virtual machines and work on their exercises. RunLabs has a web-based user interface for administration and an application programming interface (API). The API allows additional tools to be written around RunLabs. The administrator is able to reboot virtual machines, change VNC passwords. If defined in the configuration file, the administrator can create generic routing encapsulation (GRE) tunnel for the virtual machines across multiple hosts. RunLabs project used Python, Flask, SQLite, Minimega, KVM/QEMU, and OpenVSwitch as its backbone software. The analysis showed that the virtual machine host has the ability to capture virtual machines network traffic; and by default, any changes made to the virtual machines are not saved to the virtual disk. Due to the way KVM/QEMU work, one virtual disk can be used to spin up multiple virtual machines. Use case scenarios for this project included malware analysis, virtualized penetration testing network, and capture the flag competitions. Future development includes creating a virtual machine repository, bug fixes, and an option to save changes to the virtual disk.

Authors
  1. Dr. Connie Justice Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis [biography]
  2. Rushabh Vyas Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis
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