The US Department of Defense has announced that it will be developing a national ‘cyber range’ that will test cybersecurity technology in an attempt to better protect government computer systems from network attacks.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced that it will award contracts to seven companies to come up with detailed engineering plans to design and build the new testbed.

During the first eight-month phase of the National Cyber Range programme, each contractor will lead a team of businesses, universities and federal laboratories in creating plans for the facility, from which DARPA will pick a winner.

DARPA programme manager Dr Michael VanPutte said that the goal was to identify the most promising security solutions for future computer systems.

“Today, we really don’t have a way to know how secure our solutions are. We don’t understand the science of security. So we are building the national cyber range in order to bring in potential solutions and really stress them and test them in a carefully controlled environment,” VanPutte said.

The facility, which is part of the interagency Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative announced last year, is expected to benefit researchers not just in the Defense Department, but at all federal departments and agencies.

“The national cyber range, ultimately, will help provide our leaders and warfighters with greater assurance that our citizens, businesses and our armed forces will be protected against damaging cyber attacks,” VanPutte said.

Director of the Joint Interagency Cyber Task Force, Melissa Hathaway said that addressing vulnerabilities within the US computer network infrastructure must become a long-term priority for national and economic security.

“I don’t believe that this is a single-year or even a multi-year investment. It’s a multi-decade approach,” Hathaway said.

By Daniel Garrun.