Top 10 Finish for Student Cyber Defense Team

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2018-12-13T14:35:14+00:00 December 4, 2018|Guest Post, News|
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Top 10 Finish for Student Cyber Defense Team

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.

Highline College team at 2018 DOE  CyberForce Competition

Students in Highline’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Cybersecurity and Forensics program represent the college at a national cyber defense competition in Richland, Washington, Nov. 30–Dec. 1. The team’s top 10 finish was the highest of any community college in the field of nearly 70. Pictured clockwise from top left: Kevin Hall, Andrew Canino, Sarah Conrad, Lauren Gallegos, Paul Bracken and Quentin Mattson.
Photo credit: Andrea Starr, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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.

Our students felt that this experience was a great opportunity to put the skills they have learned at Highline College to the test, and helped build confidence in themselves. The success they found as a team was amazing. They are first class cyber defense competitors and should be commended for their hard work.

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.

Learn More

Highline has a history of giving cyber defense students the chance to participate in real-life scenarios through competition, including those hosted at the college. Read about them:


Highline College team at 2018 DOE  CyberForce Competition

Highline’s six-member team defends against hostile intrusion attempts during the Department of Energy’s CyberForce Competition this past weekend. Photo credit: Andrea Starr, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory