Five Students from Clarke Compete in U.S. Cyber Challenge

Students from Clarke County put on their digital detective hats and entered the world of computer security to compete in this year’s U.S. Cyber Challenge. Five computer sleuths dissected cryptic computer information in a competition designed to advance computer and network security in the United States.

Cyber security is an increasingly important aspect of business and national defense and to meet the growing need for qualified professionals the National Board of Information Security Examiners (NBISE) sponsors the U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) which begins at the high school level with Cyber Quests.

Cyber Quests are a series of fun and challenging online competitions that allow participants to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of information security disciplines. Each quest features an artifact for analysis, along with a series of quiz questions. Some quests focus on a potentially vulnerable sample web server as the artifact, challenging participants to identify its flaws using vulnerability analysis skills. Other quests are focused around forensic analysis, packet capture analysis, and more.

Clarke County Cyber Quest Coach Jay Jeffries said,”This is the 2nd year we have participated and we are learning how things are done very quickly. We really don’t know ahead of time of what the competition is going to look like.  It differs from year to year.”

For students in Clarke, this year’s task centered around legacy Windows operating systems. Jeffries. said, “This year we had to find 16 vulnerabilities on a Windows XP Professional computer and 10 vulnerabilities on Windows 2000 Professional computer.”

A team of five students participated in the challenge this year. Team members were:  MaryLee Gowdy, Michael Gallahan, Jordan Ohara, Chris Goodwater, and Michael Pierce.

The effort is built on teamwork. Jeffries said, “It takes dedication on everybody’s part to make this work.  In the beginning of the school year the coach spends about 4 – 5 weeks preparing the students by learning about security and the steps to take to secure a system.  We also have a mentor for the students, Brad Shumaker, who works with them while they are practicing and he will go over additional information.”

However when it comes to the timed competition to decipher the vulnerabilities the students are on their own. During competition neither the coach nor the mentor may help the team find any solution.

This year the team competed against  250 other high schools around the country and finished 86th.

“I am really proud of the group and their dedication to learning.” With an eye towards the next competition Jeffries added, ” We are looking for better results next year as we strive to make it to the top 3 teams.”