Beyond the NetWars competition, SANS is now building a so-called CyberCity where cybersecurity professionals can test their skills against simulated attacks against physical infrastructure. SANS employees are building a scale-model city with a hospital, railroad, military base, electric utility, Internet service provider and other buildings.
SANS plans simulations in which, for example, the hospital's records system is attacked, or the utility's power system is shut down and employees are locked out of the computer system, Skoudis said. In other planned simulations, attackers will derail a train or contaminate the town's water system.
SANS is building CyberCity so that people training with the institute have a more realistic picture of the consequences of cyberattacks, Skoudis added.
The coffee shop, offering free Wi-Fi in CyberCity, will be a "hotbed" of terrorist activity, with attackers using compromised accounts of bank and hospital employees to tunnel into back into the nearby businesses, he said.
Orchilles said NetWars helps him keep his cybersecurity skills sharp. The competition simulates several skills needed for cybersecurity professionals, including system administration, computer forensics and defending your own network against live attackers.
"The last level is one where you must defend your infrastructure and services like a team of administrators would do in real life while attacking a third party," he said.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.