Trojans take home win at CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition


By Shelby Haygood
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MHS´ Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and Career Technical Education (CTE) students participated in the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition that ran from May 2016 to February 2017. The event, sponsored by the Air Force Association, was meant to enrich student’s knowledge of cybersecurity and was open to middle and high school students around the state. The hope of the CyberPatriot program is that students will take the knowledge they gain and use it in their lives.

“Cyber networking and cybersecurity interests me because they are crucial skills to learn in the 21st century. We are living in a world connected to the Internet more than ever, and we need to have the skills to ensure our presence online is secure and safe,” expressed JROTC Team Two member, Junior Timothy Schiller Jr.

CyberPatriot competitions are divided into three divisions: All Service Division, Open Division and Middle School Division. The All Service Division is open only to high school JROTC programs but the Open Division can be comprised of any high school group. CTE teams SpicyGuacamole and Net Runners represented MHS in the Open Division Platinum tier while JROTC Team One and Team Two represented MHS in the All Service Division and competed in both Gold and Platinum tiers. “We get a virtual image sent to us by the CyberPatriot Association. A virtual image is basically an operating system within a computer. So you can work on that image and it won’t affect the outside computer. They usually put a lot of different security holes inside and our job is to fix it in a set amount of time,” explained SpicyGuacamole member Senior Cade Yamamoto. Schiller Jr. added, “We would have a virtual machine that we would have to find different vulnerabilities on it. There would be about twenty different vulnerabilities, ranging from password protection to anti-malware machines. Each time you would find a vulnerability, you would receive a certain amount of points. At the end of the competition, the points would add up, and the top score you can receive would be 100.”

Working together as a team toward success, members were assigned various systems based on where they were more experienced. Schiller Jr. stated, “Each person on the team had a specific job. There were about four people on each team, which worked out perfectly fine, because there were four different operating systems we had to work on.” Yamamoto added, “(The CyberPatriot Program Office) sends different images of different operating systems so I work on Ubuntu which is a distribution of Lennox and they also release Windows, Windows 7 and Windows Server.” While each team member specializes in their own operating system, they all come together to achieve the main goal of improving the security of as many virtual images as possible.

The competition has allowed many students to gain new insight and knowledge they feel they would never have learned in the classroom. “The cadets are trained in all areas by the U.S. Navy, these are professionals that are currently (serving) as computer technicians and are the Subject Matter Experts (SME) for the Navy, and over time the cadets acquire the same skills the Navy personnel have and also become experts in computer science,” explained LTC Timothy Schiller Sr. Timothy Schiller Jr. added, “The tech sector is only growing bigger and bigger as time goes on. It doesn’t hurt to try, and students might end up loving it, which happened to me. I love the challenge it brings to the team and I, and it is truly a motivating program for those interested in going into the tech field.”

As technology continues to advance, the importance of learning basic cyber safety is a necessity. “I help my father and mother a lot with their computers. Every time they have a problem, whether it be finding an old password or finding malware on their computer, I would always be the person they call first to help. Most of the time, I could find the problem and fix it quickly using the skills I learned in CyberPatriots,” expressed Timothy Schiller Jr. Yamamoto added, “A lot of the (vulnerabilities) they put inside the virtual image are things that are actually affecting real people in real life. So a lot of the viruses are actually affecting other users.”

With the objective of the competition being to identify and solve cybersecurity threats, competitors can use the knowledge they gained through CyberPatriot programs in their everyday lives. As the exhibition rounds in May approach, the teams say goodbye to their seniors and wait to welcome the new wave of competitors.