Guest Post by Simone Jarzabek, Computer Information Systems/Computer Science Faculty
A team of Highline students did the college proud with a top 10 finish in a national cyber defense competition. Representing Highline were six students from the college’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Cybersecurity and Forensics program: Paul Bracken, Andrew Canino, Sarah Conrad, Lauren Gallegos, Kevin Hall and Quentin Mattson.
Out of nearly 70 teams competing, Highline’s team finished 10th overall. They were the only community college team to crack the top 10.
Now in its fourth year, the Department of Energy’s CyberForce Competition was held Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2018. Highline’s team competed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, one of seven locations hosting the nationwide event.During this two-day competition, students got hands-on cybersecurity experience defending their team’s infrastructure from attacks by “Red” teams composed of industry cyber professionals. Teams are scored on continuously maintaining system operations and avoiding service disruptions.
The competition’s interactive, energy-focused scenario challenged students to protect their servers, as well as their physical, simulated industrial control system. Students had to be able to identify potential threats in a prebuilt computer network filled with intentional vulnerabilities.
Over the last several weeks, the Highline team spent countless hours of personal time to be able to resolve, identify and mitigate those problems and threats, and to present a unified front to field a competitive team.
The Highline team watched as systems belonging to other teams quickly became compromised and in some cases held for ransom by their attackers, while the Highline systems withheld many attacks. System hardening, network engineering and integration of an intrusion detection system allowed the Highline team to quickly act on hostile intrusion attempts. Our Red team said later that they wondered if their tools were broken, and had asked other attack teams to verify their failed results.
Highline students are compiling a list of lessons learned from this year’s competition. There are several technical areas in which they would like to gain more experience over the next year, so they can be even more effective competitors.
Sponsored by Department of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER), the competition is designed to develop the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to help defend and bolster our nation’s critical energy infrastructure and ensure our energy security. The next competition will be held Nov. 15–16, 2019. Highline will again apply to send a team to the competition.