If You Miss One Thing, That’s It

Six students using laptops sit around a table.
Students work on their cybersecurity systems prior to a competition.

Two teams of WSU computer science students recently got a taste of the high-level stakes and real-life cybersecurity dangers at a cyberinfrastructure competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The two-day competition, called CyberForce, was led by national laboratories and included university teams from across the U.S. WSU’s teams attended the event at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA.

As part of the competition, students set up online systems, such as a Web page or an email access point. They spent one day securing their defenses. On the second day, they had to protect their systems from a team of professional invaders.

“The idea of the competition is to get students hands-on experience and increase interest in the area of study,” said Adam Hahn, assistant professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We see the same thing with companies in real life like Capital One and Equifax. One mistake and all of your customers’ data is out there.”

This year, Hahn said, many of the students had no prior experience working on an assignment like this.

“As opposed to a classroom setting, the competition makes them think with an adversarial perspective in mind,” he said. “It gives a much more realistic setting than what we usually do.”

One of the challenges for the students was quickly learning defense tools that were not available in their classes, Hahn said. Another challenge was the students only had a few weeks to get to know each other and understand the system they were protecting.

For more information on the competition, visit the CyberForce website.

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