What is a Virtual Machine?
A VM is a way to create a computer within a computer so that you can run different operating systems on the same machine. So, for example if your computer works on Windows, with a VM, you could also run Linux on the same machine.
VMs are entirely separate from the actual computer that runs them so they can’t access files on your normal computer but can connect to the network.
VMs are used in cyber security extensively for several reasons including access to tools across multiple platforms, and — if properly configured and isolated from the network — can also be used for malware analysis. Using a VM is also a great way to safely test new things without causing problems on the ‘host’.
As you can see, learning about them is essential if you want to build your cyber security skills.
Why does CyberStart Game use a Virtual Machine?
There are several reasons we've created a Virtual Machine for CyberStart:
Predictable access to a Linux system
Cyber security as a discipline uses Linux, the Linux terminal, and open source tools designed for use in Linux, but most students don't have access to a computer with Linux installed as part of the operating system. The VM provided with CyberStart Game is a Linux VM, allowing straightforward access to the Linux terminal and tools.
Ability to have safe root (admin) access to a Linux system
Because a lot of cyber security work is done directy in a terminal rather than in an "application" with a standard graphical interface, students need root (admin) access to the operating system and the terminal. The CyberStarg Game VM gives students root access to the VM system and the terminal tools we've installed in the VM without the need to give the student admin access on the host Windows or Mac operating system.
Pre-installed open source security tools
Some of the challenges requires specific terminal tools to be installed, or specific applications to be installed. We've pre-installed the key, open source cyber security toolset into this VM that students will need to make their way through the challenges so they don't have to spend a lot of time installing and configuring new tools.
Pre-configured to run challenge files
The VM provides the right architecture and operating system to run executable programs provided by some of the challenges.
How much of CyberStart Game can be done without the Virtual Machine?
Levels 1–5 in the Headquarters base and all of Moon base can be completed without the VM. However, once you progress past level 5 in HQ the VM will be required to complete an increasing number of the challenges.
Most of these challenges can be completed outside the VM if you have a computer that supports access to a Linux terminal, but to complete them you will need admin access to the computer and the ability to install and configure applications and command line tools.
Our support team is not able to provide support for completing challenges in Forensics base or in HQ level 6 and above unless the student is using the VM.