Who's No. 1? D.C. area schools vie for cybersecurity honors

Fierce competition part of effort to develop security pros; 'We need more geeks'

Teams from four Washington area colleges competed Thursday in a cybersecurity contest hosted by Computer Sciences Corp. to test their ability to defend networks against red team hackers.

The contest, called CSC CYB3R BATTL3GROUND, was an opportunity both for the company to demonstrate its interest in the skills of  emerging cybersecurity professionals and for the students to demonstrate those skills, said Carlos Solari, vice president of cyber technologies and services at the systems integrator.

“We are in the competition to attract talent,” Solari said. “It’s an opportunity for us to connect with the universities.”


Related coverage:

Agencies hard hit by shortage of cybersecurity pros

Cybersecurity boot camps are a start toward a skilled workforce


Towson University of Maryland took top honors, followed by the Community College of Baltimore County; the University of Maryland, College Park; and Virginia’s James Madison University.

The four teams exchanged the lead throughout the day, and the final point spread was not great, Solari said. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t a drubbing for anyone.”

Although the contest was not affiliated with regional or national collegiate cybersecurity competitions, it is part of a national effort to stimulate interest in science, technology, engineering and math education in general, and in developing a professional cybersecurity workforce in particular. Agencies have found a shortage of trained professionals in their efforts to meet the growing demand for staff to defend government IT systems and networks.

Philip Reitinger, deputy undersecretary in the Homeland Security Department’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, identified manpower as a primary challenge in a digital environment in which threats and complexity are growing exponentially.

“We’ve got to address the people problem,” Reitinger said Thursday at an identity management and cybersecurity conference hosted by TechAmerica.

Despite a six-fold increase of cybersecurity professionals in the DHS National Cybersecurity Division over the last two years, “I still don’t have enough of them, and getting them is really hard,” he said. “We need more geeks. Being a geek has got to be cool.”

Cybersecurity competitions at the college level and earlier have become a tool for raising the profile and status of geeks. More than 600 teams are participating in the National High School Cyber Defense Competition, which will culminate in a championship round at the Gaylord National Convention Center near Washington in April. At the fifth annual National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, hosted earlier this year at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute for Cyber Security, a team from Northeastern University took top honors.

The CSC competition, held in conjunction with its Innovation Center Open House in Chantilly, Va., was the first of what the company hopes will be an annual event, and which eventually could become a qualifying event for national competition.

“We wanted to see how it went,” Solari said. “We are quite enthused by the whole event.”

It was decided to keep the event small the first year, limited to four schools from the Washington area. A key criteria for the entrants was an established computer security program and experience in cybersecurity competitions. The teams were charged with keeping a network that included a switch and a number of virtual services up and running and providing basic services in the face of attacks from a red team from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The attackers included penetration testers from CSC and BreakingPoint Systems, as well as a number of students from the University of Maryland University College.

After the competition was done, CSC donated five Dell Vistro laptop computers that had been used in it to the competing schools’ computer science departments.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group