[Image: An otherwise only conceptually related photo by Steve Rowell shows the LAPD’s Edward M. Davis Emergency Vehicle Operations Center & Tactics/Firearms Training Facility in Granada Hills, CA; courtesy of the Center for Land Use Intrepretation].
I was fascinated to read yesterday that a cyberwarfare training city is under construction, to be opened by March 2013, “a small-scale city located close by the New Jersey Turnpike complete with a bank, hospital, water tower, train system, electric power grid, and a coffee shop.”
I envisioned whole empty streets and bank towers—suburban houses and replica transportation depots—sitting there in the rain whilst troops of code-wielding warriors hurl electromagnetic spells from laptops against elevator circuit boards, sump pumps, and garage doors, flooding basements, popping open underground gold vaults, and frying traffic lights, like some gonzo version of The Italian Job wed with the digital wizardry of a new sorcerer class, the “first-line cyber defenders” who will be trained in this place, our 21st-century Hogwarts along the freeway. Then they clean it all and start again tomorrow.
Alas. Although this, in many ways, is even more interesting, the entire “test city” truly is miniature: indeed, the whole thing “fits in a six by eight foot area and was created using miniature buildings and houses, [and] the underlying power control systems, hospital software, and other infrastructures are directly from the real world.”
Nonetheless, this 6-x-8 surrogate urban world will be under near-constant microcosmic attack: “NetWars CyberCity participants, which include cyber warriors from the Department of Defense and other defenders within the U.S. Government, will be tasked with protecting the city’s critical infrastructure and systems as they come under attack. Cyber warriors will be presented with potential real-world attacks; their job is to defend against them. Missions will include fending off attacks on the city’s power company, hospital, water system and transportation services.”
Which means, in the end, that this is really just an enlarged board game with an eye-catching press release—but there is still something compelling about the notion of an anointed patch of circuits and wifi routers, accepted as an adequate stand-in—an electromagnetic stunt double—for something like all of New York City, let alone the United States. A voodoo doll made of light, animated from within by packet switches, under constant surveillance in an invisible war.