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

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Emerging Computing and Information Technologies I

Tagged Division

Computing & Information Technology

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Paper Authors


Connie Justice Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

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Dr. Connie Justice is a Clinical Associate Professor in Computer and Information Technology (CIT) at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and a faculty member of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) at Purdue University. Professor Justice has over 20 years experience in the computer and systems engineering field. Professor Justice is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional, CISSP. She created the networking option and security option for CIT majors and a Network Security Certificate Program. She has also designed and modified many courses in networking and networking security. Professor Justice is noted for her creation of the Living Lab, an experiential learning environment where students gain real world experience running an IT business.

Dr. Justice takes extreme pride and is a great innovator in the area of experiential learning and service. Experiential learning and service contributes to the integration of theory and application by creating an environment where the students learn by doing or apply their theory in service learning projects, practica, internships, games, and simulations. The Living Lab for CIT was created out of the need to provide a business environment for students to give them a taste of a “real” IT environment. A secondary purpose is to provide service to internal and external clients. The Living Lab has served many internal and external clients.

Dr. Justice has consulted for and managed IT departments in small and medium sized businesses. Her areas of research include: experiential and service learning, information and security risk assessment, risk management, digital forensics, network security, network and systems engineering, network and systems administration, and networking and security course development.

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Rushabh Vyas Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis

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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.

Justice, C., & Vyas, R. (2017, June), Cybersecurity Education: RunLabs Rapidly Create Virtualized Labs Based on a Simple Configuration File Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28098

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