VMworld 2006: Teaching (security) using virtual labs
This talk by Marcus MacNeill (Surgient) discussed the Surgient Virtual Training Lab used by CERT-US to train military personnel in security best practices, etc… I was disappointed because the talk didn’t discuss the challenges of teaching security, and the lessons learned by CERT doing so, but instead focused on how the product could be used in a teaching environment. Not surprisingly, the Surgient product resembles both VMware’s lab manager and ReAssure. However, the Surgient product doesn’t support the sharing of images, and stopping and restarting work, e.g. development work by users (from what I saw—if it does it wasn’t mentioned). They mentioned that they had patented technologies involved, which is disturbing (raise your hand if you like software patents). ReAssure meets (or will soon, thanks to the VIX API) all of the requirements he discussed for teaching, except for student shadowing (seeing what a student is attempting to do). So, I would be very interested in seeing teaching labs using ReAssure as a support infrastructure. There are of course other teaching labs using virtualization that have been developed at other universities and colleges; the challenge is of course to be able to design courses and exercises that are portable and reusable. We can all gain by sharing these, but for that we need a common infrastructure where all these exercises would be valid.