Have you heard of CyberPatriot? Over 1,400 teams have registered so far in 2015 for this national cyber security education program, conceived by the Air Force Association, which has a High School Cyber Defense competition at its core. Registration closes on October 9th. I urge you to act now to become involved as a coach, mentor, assistant, or team member. Instructions on how to do so are at the end of this blog. This video provides a glimpse of how the competition works.
The competition consists of teams of two to six High School students practicing their newly learned cyber security skills and problem solving abilities in a series of online competitions culminating in an in-person National Finals competition. It has grown from an eight team competition in 2009 to 2,175 registered teams last year. The winners receive scholarships and competitors have a head start in gaining internships, as high school students, to work in the cyber security industry. Last year’s National Champions were crowned near Washington, D.C. in March.
Time is short to register.
Only a few days remain for industry mentors, teachers, students and their parents to learn about what a great program CyberPatriot is, and to get ready to compete in CyberPatriot VIII. Introductory virtual machine images are available to registered teams now, and a Sneak Preview of the competition will be sent to registered teams on September 17th, with the preview from 12:00-4:00 pm Eastern September 19th. These are great opportunities to learn about the competition, drum up interest, and hone skills for the competition rounds that start later this fall. I urge teachers and my industry peers to learn about it and get involved by checking out the team and volunteer registration page. It has been, and will continue to be, a great experience for me, the teachers, and my industry peers.
What do students learn?
CyberPatriot is focused solely on defensive strategies, concepts, and mechanisms. Students learn how to fix vulnerabilities in various Windows and Linux systems, including securing network and application services such as Samba, SSH, and webservers. Students must uncover and eliminate backdoors into the computer systems, eradicate malware, and ensure the systems are configured securely (e.g., only authorized users can access them, prohibited files and services are removed, computer hygiene is maintained, etc.) And they have to do this in limited time windows; this past year, teams had six hours to securely configure 2-3 computer systems and complete networking challenges. As the rounds progressed the vulnerabilities were more advanced and harder to find. Only the best and most prepared teams advanced from the beginning rounds to the Regional Round, and then to the National Championships.
Why is this important?
There is a shortage of cyber security professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to protect our national and corporate systems. We need as many students as we can recruit to become cyber security professionals. New breaches of systems and the data they hold are announced almost daily, and a number of them have involved exploiting the exact items CyberPatriot competitors learn how to fix. We need the next generation of cyber defenders to be the best and the brightest cyber security technicians they can be.
What can you do?
Registering now will allow teams multiple opportunities to learn about cyber security and how the competition works without the pressure of competition. Teachers, cyber security professionals, students, and their parents can visit the CyberPatriot website to find out more about becoming a coach, a mentor, or a competitor. You don’t have to be a technical expert to volunteer — mentors are the only volunteers expected to have cyber security technical expertise. Teams can also use Team Assistants who provide non-technical support and encouragement to teams, such as competition set-up, coordination, and administration.
I hope you will consider joining us for CyberPatriot VIII!
The Empower and Protect Blog brings you cybersecurity and information technology insights from top industry experts at Telos.