A few years ago, the U.S. Navy helped produce an interactive computer-based-training (CBT) tool covering an array of network security and information assurance issues. Designed in the form of a three-dimensional computer simulation (with a more than passing resemblance to The Sims), the resulting “game”, “CyberCIEGE”, provides a deceptively simple-looking tool for teaching students and staff the finer real-world nuances of computer (and physical) security. While the introductory, tutorial scenarios require little more than common sense to complete successfully, the difficulty increases dramatically as you progress through the program.

CyberCIEGE logo fellowThe program (I am hesitant to call it a game) quickly goes beyond relatively straightforward software security measures like antivirus programs to encompass the potentially overwhelming fullness of a complete security environment – physical security, physical and software access control, staff and employee training, and much, much more. It presents a seemingly never-ending supply of almost worst-case scenarios, where people are idiots, software (and hardware) have flaws, threats are constantly changing, budgets are too small, and you’re chronically unable to please everyone all of the time. Ah, the wonderful world of modern IT

Despite the numerous, considerable virtues of this simulation, it was developed by and for the military, and is heavily tailored for its intended audience. (At least, the copy provided to me by a thoughtful contributor is; I’m not sure if educational users receive a less-government-centric version.) You have to deal with security clearances when considering access controls, for example, and come across frequent references to Privacy Act restrictions and the guidelines of the military’s Information Assurance program. There are even a few references to OPSEC, a subject always near and dear to my heart, as with this entertaining quiz question:

(The correct answer, for what it’s worth, is “no”; you shouldn’t give interviews over the phone without confirming the identity of who you’re speaking with, or so says CyberCIEGE.)

That said, if you can overlook the government-centric aspects of the included scenarios, CyberCIEGE is a quite useful learning tool for anyone who works with computers for a living. Even if you only use them, and don’t administer them, spending an hour or two seeing what life is like on the other side of the help desk might give you a better appreciation for what your local geeks and nerds have to deal with for a living. The program itself is quite well documented, and the included “CyberCIEGE Encyclopedia” provides a wealth of information.

I haven’t looked at it too closely, but there’s a SDK available for download on the CyberCIEGE website; with it, you can edit the existing scenarios and even produce entirely new ones within the framework of the program’s engine. CyberCIEGE seems to be an excellent tool – or at least a very good tool with excellent potential – and I firmly believe that a knowledgeable security guru could produce some first-class scenarios and exercises for this program, tailored more to corporate or academic environments than military ones.

A somewhat out-of-date “demo” version of the program (thoughtfully updated by the NPS developer on 21 September – Thanks, Mike!) is available here, on the Naval Postgraduate School’s website; it doesn’t allow you to save your progress, nor play more than twenty minutes. (Some of the scenarios can take several hours to complete successfully.) A copy of the full, unrestricted program, nominally for use by military and government employees (and educational institutions) only, has thoughtfully been made available for download here (85MB .exe installer) or here (85MB zipped tarball of the installer, should you not be able to download executables.) (links updated 18 Dec 07) Ah, you are a government employee or student, right? 🙂

CyberCIEGE’s computer requirements are minimal; Windows 2000, XP, or Vista is needed, with DirectX 9, a display adapter with at least 64MB video memory (I’m not sure if shared memory will work), and a display that does 1024×768 resolution. Though this is almost the latest version (1.8g, current as of August 2007), there are still a few bugs (hey, it’s government software, what do you expect?) but nothing too major. It’s available as a self-extracting installer, and includes instructions on how to create a “portable” version of the program meant to be played directly from a CD – but which should work fine on a portable USB drive as well.

Updated, 21 Sept 2007: The demo version downloadable from the NPS website has been updated (see the comments, below), and there’s also a patch to version 1.8h (23.6MB self-extracting installer.) It installs seamlessly onto installs of the 1.8g package available two paragraphs up, woo-hoo.

Published in: Geekiness, General, Security | on September 17th, 2007| 6 Comments »

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  1. On 9/21/2007 at 3:57 pm Mike Thompson Said:

    Upon reading this review, I updated the “demo” version and posted it. Unfortunately I botched the job. The Demo version at
    has now been corrected (9/21/07 2pm PDT).

  2. On 9/21/2007 at 4:05 pm Nemo Said:

    Why, thank you, Mike! You’re an officer(?) and a gentleman, and we all owe you a debt of gratitude for the work you’ve put into the program.

  3. On 9/23/2011 at 4:36 pm Ralph Barhydt Said:

    CyberCIEGE is only available for free to United States Government agencies and employees. Yes, the government version has a heavy, and understandable, military orientation.

    The commercial version, including contracting to develop appropriate scenarios, is a available from the co-creators of the game, Rivermind. You can buy the game or have scenarios customized for your enterprise by contacting Ralph Barhydt, 415.465.9900,

  4. On 11/20/2011 at 4:49 pm Anon Said:

    Note, if you guys are trying to keep the program on a leash, a quick simple google search will turn up the full program. Cheers!

  5. On 11/21/2014 at 4:38 pm actrak Said:

    Is there a walk-through for ciege that can help with the scenarios? I am having issues with a few and would like that little bump the sort them out.

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