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Our Research

Cyber Workforce Development

Research in cyber workforce development (CWD) focuses on developing the best methods and technology to help organizations effectively cultivate the knowledge and skills their cyber workforce needs to meet today’s emerging cyber challenges.

Cyber technology is advancing more rapidly now than it ever has before. The expanse of software in our everyday lives and the growth of software systems have increased the number of weaknesses and vulnerabilities that cyber attackers can exploit. These attackers, who range from cyber criminals to state actors, work tirelessly to find ways of compromising systems and are becoming increasingly capable.

In this environment, how can an organization ensure that its cyber workforce is ready to meet real challenges and work together as a team before a threat arises? Learning technical skills is not enough. To counter the growing number of threats, cyber operators need to develop their skills in realistic environments that feature compelling scenarios with intelligent adversaries, and they need to experience the pace and pressure of real cyber events so they can learn to work together as effective teams.

When cyber teams have the opportunity to experience realistic environments and scenarios, they become mission-ready. Onboarding is streamlined when new members join these teams because they learn to serve in an effective cyber workforce.

Building realistic experiences that achieve these ends, however, is not easy. Most organizations struggle to create exercises that are realistic enough to effectively prepare cyber operators to respond to real threats. To overcome these challenges, the SEI offers innovative technologies that deliver functional solutions.

Improving Cyber Performance

For more than 20 years, the CWD Directorate of the CERT Division has sharpened the skills and abilities of the cyber workforce by improving tools and methodologies that accelerate human learning. We develop customized approaches that enhance the capabilities of our nation’s cybersecurity professionals. Our applied research in cyber workforce development ensures your cyber workforce is ready to meet the cyber challenges of today as well as of tomorrow.

Over the years, we have built a strong track record of leveraging emerging technologies to solve diverse workforce development challenges. In fact, we have consistently created functional prototypes years ahead of industry. In 2006, we created the first browser-based “virtual classroom” experience that featured video instruction combined with hands-on virtual lab environments. By 2009, we advanced the field by creating the first browser-based, “cyber range,” team-exercise platform that enabled hands-on team exercises. Only a few years later, our team developed the first browser-based platform that integrated a virtual classroom with a cyber-range experience.

Our efforts now include creating open source tools for crafting cutting-edge, realistic cyber simulations that improve the performance of cyber teams and organizations. Our tools deliver realistic cyber learning experiences featuring scenarios with live network devices and traffic. The simulations we create combine human actors with non-player characters that generate realistic traffic, putting cybersecurity personnel in high-pressure situations where they can learn how to carry out real-time responses to cyber events.

As a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC), we provide our expertise in an unbiased manner and can work with your organization to provide solutions tailored to your needs. We have extensive experience supporting organizations with content and technology development, from the creation of immersive hands-on exercises, to scenario-based mission rehearsals, and application prototypes used to model high-value, cyber-key terrain in virtual environments. The SEI is equipped with a Broadcast Media team, who research process and production methods to produce industry-leading products, including video-based training, cyber workforce improvement programs, training gap analysis, and curriculum definition.

What We Offer

Latest from the SEI Blog

Headshot of Jarrett Booz

Designing Great Challenges for Cybersecurity Competitions

April 17, 2023 • Blog Post
Jarrett Booz, Josh Hammerstein, Matt Kaar

This blog post highlights the SEI’s experience developing cybersecurity challenges for the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition and general-purpose guidelines and best practices for developing effective...

Dustin Updyke

Using Machine Learning to Increase the Fidelity of Non-Player Characters in Training Simulations

April 11, 2022 • Blog Post
Dustin D. Updyke, Thomas G. Podnar, Geoffrey B. Dobson, John Yarger

Use of machine-learning (ML) modeling and a suite of software tools to create decision-making preferences that make non-player characters (NPCs) more realistic in...


Our Vision for the Future of Cyber Workforce Development

At the SEI, we continue to research how to prepare the workforce to maintain and expand its defensive capabilities in response to the rapid advancement of new technologies that are increasingly employed by our adversaries.

Emerging technologies are enabling a new era of cyber autonomy and human-machine teaming, and our cyber workforce needs to adapt in anticipation of those changes. Cyber operators often struggle to stay current with these rapid developments, so we are researching the best ways to make sure our cyber workforce grows in their capabilities to outperform our adversaries and stay ahead of the advances in cyber.

For more information about upcoming tools and solutions, subscribe to our mailing list.