HomeNewsArticle Display

AFCYBER presents, participates in DEF CON 27

Air Force cyber warfare operators set up their computer stations before a capture-the-flag competition during DEF CON 27 Hacking Conference in Las Vegas, Aug. 8, 2019. The operators participated in a number of DEF CON events to showcase their knowledge and experience. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Cyber warfare operators set up their computer stations before a capture-the-flag competition during DEF CON 27 Hacking Conference in Las Vegas, Aug. 8, 2019. The operators participated in a number of DEF CON events to showcase their knowledge and experience. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Air Force cyber warfare operators set up their computer stations before a capture-the-flag competition during DEF CON 27 Hacking Conference in Las Vegas, Aug. 8, 2019. The operators participated in a number of DEF CON events to showcase their knowledge and experience. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

Cyber warfare operators compete in an Industrial Control Systems capture-the-flag competition during DEF CON 27 Hacking Conference in Las Vegas, Aug. 10, 2019. The team placed third in the four-day event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) --

Spread across several hotels on the Las Vegas strip, nearly 30,000 cyber enthusiasts gathered for the 27th annual DEF CON Hacking Conference, Aug. 8-11.

Throughout the four-day event, attendees could learn new skills from industry professionals, test those skills during capture-the-flag competitions, network with others, interview for jobs and test out products and simulators, among other things.

Of those in attendance were several Air Forces Cyber Airmen who presented their technologies or participated in cyber competitions. The 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron showcased their “Bricks in the Loop” cyber-physical display.

“What we have is a toy brick model of an Air Force base,” said Scott Thompson, 90th COS systems engineer. “On it you can see approach lights, runway lights, taxiway lights. You see a hangar. We have a terminal. The bricks actually light up.”

The reason for this automation is simple, or rather, Thompson puts it simply.

“If there's some sort of interruption ... it causes an effect on the model itself,” he explained. “This cyber-physical interface provides the ground truth for our operators.”

The 90th COS Airmen presented BIL to thousands of attendees, including dozens of reporters and one distinguished visitor.

“We got to showcase BIL to Dr. Will Roper, (assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics),” Thompson said. “It was great because it gave us the chance to talk about the importance of Industrial Control Systems and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition across the Department of Defense.”

Not too far away Air Force cyber warfare operators competed against some of the nation's best hackers in several CTFs. According to one participant, there was plenty more to gain from competition than just the first place “black badge” – a lifetime’s free admission to DEF CON.

“This helps build our comradery as a unit, similar to a temporary duty assignment or deployment,” said a 67th Cyberspace Wing CWO master sergeant. “Some of us work together, but some don’t, so the CTFs gives us the opportunity to come together, build on our skill sets or learn new skills. It’s a very good form of training that’s hard to replicate anywhere else.”

The master sergeant’s team held the second place position within the Industrial Control Systems CTF for much of the competition. At one point first was just barely out of reach, but when the competition wrapped, the team placed third overall.

“Competing can be frustrating at times, but when you’re brought up against a challenge, you have to have an attitude to beat that challenge before moving on to the next challenge,” the master sergeant said. “All in all this builds a lot of confidence. When you don’t have the answer you have to break the problem down and figure it out. That’s what our jobs are all about.”

According to Thompson, the conference provided many opportunities to showcase the Air Force’s advances in aviation and cybersecurity.

“As I look around I see that our Air Force is represented on over half of this floor, including [BIL] and an F-35 simulator,” Thompson said. “How cool of a dialogue is that? Our presence shows others what we’re trying to do – protect the nation.”

(Editor’s note: Some names have been removed due to the sensitivity of the Air Force cybersecurity mission.)

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @LukeAFB: Starting the week off with a F-16 slow-mo! ✈ #slowmomonday #aviation #jets #f16 #fighterjet #usaf #sunrise https://t.co/toXXl…
RT @AETCommand: Airmen from the 29th AMU check over the first MQ-9 Reaper to be transported through ferry flight, Jan. 8, 2020, on @Holloma
RT @DeptofDefense: The cold won’t slow down the @usairforce! The Air Force is working with the @usarmyccdc to test cold weather gear and e…
RT @USAFCENT: GROUND SUPPORT | USAF Airmen assigned to the 379th AEMS worked alongside the 746th EAS to load cargo onto & launch a C-130 at…
RT @USAFHealth: #DidYouKnow, Air Force Expeditionary Medicine brings leading-edge medicine directly into battle providing injured personnel…
As he served, let us serve. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. https://t.co/SuE0D4UAnI
RT @AirNatlGuard: "We talk about lining ourselves up with our sister services and joint efforts to make sure we accomplish our mission; the…
RT @AFResearchLab: The year is 1947. The @usairforce officially broke the sound barrier with the Bell X-1 aircraft. This incredible feat w…
RT @theF35JPO: Congratulations to the @AusAirForce for completing their #F35 training mission at @LukeAFB! 🇦🇺 ⚡ Learn more 🔗 https://t.co/2…
RT @CENTCOM: A French Rafale conducts nighttime air refueling with a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender assigned to the 380th Air Expeditionary…
RT @DeptofDefense: Jumping from a plane becomes a big step toward friendship. 301 soldiers and airmen from @USArmyReserve, @usairforce, and…
Explosive Disposal Ordnance (EOD) Airmen are often assigned to some of the most dangerous missions and perform tact… https://t.co/xYc9Ip5psn
Start this year by supporting your #Airmen in their pursuit of #resiliency. Learn about common triggers of invisibl… https://t.co/6gJSfJKvcK
RT @OHNationalGuard: The @180thFW hosted members of the Nigerian Air Force recently Officers visited the 180FW in search of #bestpractice
RT @HiAirGuard: Airmen from 154th Security Forces Squadron became first responders during a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear…
RT @US_SOCEUR: U.S. #airmen assigned to the 352d Special Operations Wing perform maintenance on a CV-22B #Osprey aircraft in Szolnok, #Hung
RT @HQ_AFMC: The @AFResearchLab s X-60A program achieved a key developmental #milestone with the completion of integrated vehicle propulsio…
RT @DeptofDefense: If you want to get there as fast as possible, don’t stop for gas. ⛽ That’s why the @usairforce relies on airmen like Tec…
RT @DeptofDefense: Press ▶️ to learn more about @USAFCENT, the command that provides air & space warfighting capabilities to help defeat v…
Airmen with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard provide support at the “tent cities” to support Task Force South and… https://t.co/zg2yT0LqpS