The AZCWR helps fight cybercrime.

Exclusive: An inside look at Arizona Cybersecurity Warfare Range

Published: 03/29/2021
Updated: 04/05/2022

Look into a mind of a cyber hacker

Updated: 3/31/2021

There are monitors everywhere. Wires are intertwined. Lights are blinking. It’s hard to tell just where that beep is coming from. Huddled at one end of the room is a group of people, ranging from recent college graduates to the more seasoned, all dressed casually in t-shirts and jeans. Scattered around them are empty pizza boxes and soda cans. From a quick glance, you’d think they have little in common, but this group is helping to fight global cybercrime and detect vulnerabilities in some of the top businesses and government entities in Arizona and the nation. And they all live in Greater Phoenix.

This group of volunteers at the Arizona Cyber Warfare Range (AZCWR) are white-hat hackers. What used to be a research facility for military technology in the 1980s has transformed into a unit for protection and cybersecurity education. With Arizona ranges in Surprise, Tempe, Tucson, and online, the facility is a privately funded non-profit and 100% volunteer driven.

An AZCWR volunteer standing next to a computer system, describing how the group provides cybersecurity.


Volunteering with the Arizona Cyber Warfare Range (AZCWR)

Many of the volunteers have day jobs in computer security and voluntarily take the time to better their own skills and serve their community through AZCWR. The range has also helped some get a new start down a different career path. One volunteer who worked as a Costco cashier for 10 years found AZCWR at a time when he wanted to make a change. After starting with a few courses, he was hooked. Now, he’s employed in the cybersecurity industry at one of the top firms in the region and oversees a cybersecurity group at a university while continuing to volunteer with the AZ Cyber Warfare Range.

The range offers a unique take on the cybersecurity industry. At AZCWR, volunteers embrace the hacker mentality. While hackers are typically “bad guys,” the range gives people the opportunity to think bad but act good. The best way to foil a cyber attack is to think and act like the person on the other end. Here, volunteers are able to completely dismantle foundations without fear. Not only does this help them better understand the material they are working with, but gives them a perspective that is nearly impossible to find in the private industry. This method is what helps the volunteers at AZCWR warn others about possible cyber attacks and how to best protect against them.

The AZCWR’s main missions are to educate, gather intelligence and change the industry. With the support of the community and its volunteers, it will continue to teach and improve Greater Phoenix. Learn more about the large cybersecurity presence in Greater Phoenix.

Get a special behind the scenes look at the daily life of a hacker in this 360° video of Arizona Cyber Warfare Range. Click and drag to move around the room. Best viewed on YouTube mobile.


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