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So, you know those exciting movie-style 3D visual cyber attack ops centres?

Yep, definitely not reality: The MoD is buying one

Credit: Sony/Eon/MGM

Airbus has been awarded a contract worth £1.4m to "develop and mature" a movie-style 3D Virtual Cyber Centre of Operations (VCCO) for the Ministry of Defence.

The research contract engages Airbus to develop a "3-D virtual world to enable collaboration and shared situational awareness," across a sprawling network of security bods.

The VCCO is intended to demonstrate "how virtual collaboration might give commanders a better understanding of how they are being targeted by cyber enemies on the battlefield".

At a press demonstration in London yesterday, the Oculus Rift VR headset was being shown as a possible interface.

"The VCCO concept aims to provide decision makers and SMEs with an overview of the shared cyber environment, so they can understand where the threats might lie, and how they might collaborate securely to defeat those threats," states an Airbus press release.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the remaining in-house R&D arm of the MoD, has awarded the contract as part of its Cyber Situational Awareness (CSA) project.

Ben Parish, Dstl CSA Capability Advisor, said: "Cyber technologies are constantly evolving and it's crucial for the UK's Armed Forces to keep abreast of these developments. The research into the VCCO concept contributes to MOD understanding of how to be resilient to cyber-attacks and be better able to protect our interests in cyberspace."

Airbus adds: "This contract will help us study how British forces can stay ahead of the curve."

Talking to El Reg, Airbus' Dr Kevin Jones insisted that the VCCO concept is not vapourware. "We've proven the concept in previous years work," he claimed, estimating the cumulative worth of that previous research at £350,000. "Now we're taking it to the next level."

The Airbus contract will run until March 2016, and welcomes two SME subcontractors to the programme. Xuvasi will provide event correlation data and MooD International, twice winners of the Queen's Award for Innovation and regular Dstl contractees, will provide visual analytics for the VCCO.

MooD's Chief Strategy Officer, Dick Whittington, told us that: "MooD’s role in the programme is about building and visualising a model of the mission landscape, to give context to a potential cyber intrusion, and therefore help to plan evasive action." His cat was unavailable for comment.

Dr Jones also told The Register that a technical demonstration platform was expected to be viable for stakeholders in 2017.

The VCCO is considered to have considerable commercial application and Airbus retains IP rights on its work, as per DEFCON 705.

Jones acknowledged that actual real world use may not be immediate, but Airbus would (ideally) get this product to market as soon as possible following the demonstration platform. ®

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