Cyber Security Competitions for Students (Fall 2011)

Posted by on June 16, 2011

As the school hear is wrapping up, it is time for individuals and teams to start preparing for some upcoming cyber security challenges. What does every student want to think about over the summer break? More work, right? The good news: this can be fun and challenging. I am talking about Cyber Patriot IV and Cyber Challenge. Both competitions will be taking place in the fall of 2011.

Are you interested in Cyber Security? Do you like working with computers and want to be challenged? Are you thinking about going into the Information Technology field in the future? If you answer YES to any of these questions then these competitions are for you. Even if you didn’t answer yes, you may find out that you actually like this world.

Read the news on any given day and you can probably find a breach happening at a major company. Recently we have seen Phone companies, banks, and others suffer from cyber incidents. These companies need strong candidates to help protect their assets and company from cyber criminals. Don’t forget the country as well. Many acts of war are committed online and the defense of our country will move more to cyber activities.

There are a few challenges that are available to students. Each one has its own requirements and/or fees that are available on their web sites. Some require small teams where others are completed by individuals. So lets talk about a few of them.

Cyber Patriot IV
There are two divisions of the competition, an all service division which is ROTC type, and then an open division which is for high schools.

The primary goal is to have students work to protect a virtual machine. It consists of multiple rounds of competition. The organization will supply each team with an identical Virtual Image, for example Windows Server 2008. It will have pre-determined vulnerabilities (virus, malware, bad users, poor password policies, no logging, etc) and the students will get 6 hrs to secure the system. During the six hours, the virtual machine is connected to a scoring engine online that is looking for 10-20 items that need fixing. There may be more than that, but only these (which are not specified) count. Students can check their scores during the competition to see how they are doing. This really helps build up their ability to properly secure a computer.

The final rounds are held in Orlando and Washington DC (at least last year they were). If the team is successful enough to make it to DC, there is actually a red team (hackers) actively attacking the machines that the students are defending.

This is a really fun competition for students of high school age. It gives them hands on experience working with different types of computers. During the competition, the images can be Windows or Linux based.

Cyber Challenge
The cyber challenge is quite different from Cyber Patriot in the fact that it consists of online videos and training materials that the students study. At pre-determined times, an online quiz is available for them to test their knowledge. It is not as hands on as Cyber Patriot, but helps build knowledge that is needed for Cyber Patriot. The main focus is on Networking fundamentals and Operating Systems. The training material is provided by SANS under the title Cyber Foundations(

There are other challenges as well that you can see at the Cyber Challenge Site. One of those is DC3 which is more geared to digital forensics.

Get Involved
There are many schools that are not aware of these competitions. If you have any contacts with any high schools help spread the word about these different competitions. Lets help these students get the opportunities that can help them grow and learn.


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