Boise State unveils million dollar cyber security lab to team up with INL to protect infrastructure

Posted at 3:20 PM, Nov 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-02 17:20:34-04

    The United States is under a near constant cyber attack. Equifax and the last election are proof of that.
    That's why Boise State and the Idaho National Lab are working to create one of the top counter cyber intelligence partnerships in the country.

    Their goal is to protect infrastructure... Things like dams, electrical grids, and cell service.
    ... primary targets for anyone wishing to cause chaos.
    Six On Your Side got an exclusive look inside Boise State's brand new lab designed to train the next wave of cyber soldiers.

Ever since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, a strange thing happened, Russia has regularly taken out Ukraine's media, transportation and even their power grid... literally with the press of a button.

"Ukraine has shown that with focus and effort you can take down power even in the US," says Wayne Austad, Director of the Cybercore Initiative at INL.
 He says Russia has learned if you want to cause chaos, all it takes is computers and brains.
And he says Russia's not the only one.
"There are four principle players, Russia, China, North Korea and Iran."
Unlike Ukraine, though,  the US is a superpower. But power is no longer just military might.

"As we continue to be the dominant military power," says Austad, "other countries are looking to shift to a domain where they can have global reach and impact."
That domain is the internet.
The INL is where we fight back. The cold war era nuclear reactors are mostly gone, and the unique infrastructure that connected them re-purposed. 

"This test grid doesn't exist anywhere else in the US, maybe in the world." says Austad pointing to INL's industrial generator and power grid.
Workers at INL team up with private industry to test known threats on real systems and prepare for new threats by playing blue on red cyber war games.
We asked David Becker with BSU's cyber lab about what that's like. "Yeah, I'll tell you the red blue team exercise I did at homeland security was one of the most intense days I've ever spent in my life," says Becker. 

By changing harmonics, hackers can cause a power station to literally explode, the only bomb required is in the cyber world.
It's the kind of threat that needs more recruits to fight, and Boise State wants to provide them.

"It's a nice fit between BSU and INL," says Mark Rudin, VP of Research and Economic Development at BSU, "One thing they do need are people and talent to help them with their mission." 
The Idaho legislature set aside a million dollars to create a secure cyber lab right off the Grove that's still being unpacked.

Six On Your Side was given exclusive first access.
Rudin says Boise State is the perfect partner for INL in a growing field,"The competition is very keen, but also I'd say the INL is such a national leader in the area to partner with them puts us a leg up on the competition." 

Boise State students will soon be learning how to protect cutting edge subsystems and hopefully one day come up with more permanent protection.

"We need to fundamentally redesign how the physical side of the grid works so we have a self healing digital side of it.." says Austad.
In the meantime, the goal is to have top notch cyber guards who can recognize and react to a threat before it can do serious damage.

Besides a fully functional power grid, the INL also has isolated cell phone towers that are used by cell companies to test their products against cyber attacks.