Air Force Research Lab to set up sensor hacking lab

Playas Training and Research Center (PTRC)
The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has agreed with the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology to develop a training environment to test cyber and electronic warfare attacks, at the Playas Electronic Attack & Cyber Environment in Playas, New Mexico. (PTRC)

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has inked a deal with the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology to develop a training environment to test cyber and electronic warfare attacks, according to a story on the website of Breaking Defense.

According to the article, the cyber training environment will focus on understanding how sensors embedded into devices that are connected via the Internet of Things (IoT) might be manipulated, both to protect US systems and to attack those of adversaries.

The deal involves a sole source contract, worth about $93 million, that will support research, development and operation of the Playas Electronic Attack & Cyber Environment in Playas, New Mexico, through October 2026. The Playas Training and Research Center (PTRC), where the cyber training would take place, already is heavily involved with military training, with a variety of ranges that mimic villages in global conflict regions.

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Through the center, the AFRL wants to experiment and train airmen on how to hack systems to create real-world affects, such as shutting down a power station or blowing up a vehicle. The New Mexico facility will also reportedly focus specifically on “techniques by which objects and events can be sensed or manipulated via transducers and kinetic actuators on cyber-connected devices.” It will also help Air Force cyber warriors distinguish between faulty parts, signs of regular wear and tear, and hacking by adversaries.

According to the article, the university location was chosen because current military operating ranges are overscheduled or unavailable and do not have adequate cyber system capabilities to support regular customer use. The article was quoted as saying, “The facilities and capabilities will include wired and open-air communications and network infrastructure, representative [of] worldwide physical infrastructure, and specialized facilities to support test, training, and operations. The effort will bring together warfighter requirements, hardware, software, expertise, and best practices to create a reconfigurable and realistic cyber-kinetic environment and range complex.”

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