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San Diego
Monday, May 20, 2024

Regional Cyber Lab Opens Doors, ‘Sandbox’

The city of San Diego has launched the San Diego Regional Cyber Lab to help local agencies prevent and protect against cyberattacks. It announced the opening earlier this month (Dec. 6).

The move comes as cybersecurity concerns remain high following several major ransomware attacks nationwide, including a high-profile break-in at the Los Angeles schools.

Darren Bennett
Chief Information Security Officer
City of San Diego

Close to $1 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security paid for the downtown lab, envisioned as a regional resource for small businesses, public agencies and educational institutions to utilize for specialized training with safe environments to simulate and defend against cyberattacks.

The lab’s mission is to provide coordinated cybersecurity awareness for the greater San Diego region through collaborative access to the latest technology, intelligence and training tools.

“We’ve all heard the horror stories of high-profile attacks that have held companies and public agencies hostage, costing them millions in lost productivity or ransoms,” said Darren Bennett, the city’s chief information security officer (CISO). “We must remain vigilant in defending against these ever-evolving threats and, with this new San Diego Regional Cyber Lab, we’ll be stronger as a region by working together against a common enemy.”

Downtown Space

The lab has physical space at Civic Center Plaza at 1200 Third Ave. Visits are by appointment only. Information is at

The city received two grants from Homeland Security totaling about $928,000 to create the lab. To design and develop the facility, the city formed a working group of cybersecurity experts, academics, CEOs and public officials from across the region.

The lab space includes a no-risk sandbox environment where information technology professionals can further develop their cybersecurity skills in real-time scenarios. The lab has both PC and Mac environments connected to multiple servers running various virtual machines that can be manipulated, modified and attacked in different ways.

The cyber lab offers free cyber simulation tools, including:

The Free Range – Provides a collaborative, cloud-based platform for training, development and testing of cybersecurity tools in a safe and controlled environment.

The Haiku Range – The cybersecurity equivalent of a flight simulator that allows users of all levels to develop real-world skills in a game-like virtual environment.

Cyber Catch – A cloud-based cyber incident simulator specifically designed for small and medium-sized organizations.

Lisa Easterly
President and CEO
Cyber Center of Excellence

Cyber criminals frequently target businesses, said Lisa Easterly, president and CEO of Cyber Center of Excellence, a San Diego-based nonprofit also known by its initials, CCOE.

“The cyber lab will now provide these organizations with collaborative resources to gauge and harden their cyber readiness and train staff in risk-free scenarios, ultimately strengthening the region’s cyber resiliency,”  she said.

Cyber Center of Excellence is a San Diego-based nonprofit dedicated to growing the regional cyber economy and creating a more secure digital community for all.

The San Diego Regional Cyber Lab also launched a new website –  – where organizations can schedule appointments to use the lab.


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