Academy cyber team showcases international prowess

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The Air Force Academy's Cyber Competition team placed first out of 47 teams in the western hemisphere, and fifth among 123 teams overall in the University of California Santa Barbara International Capture the Flag cyber competition Dec. 6.

In the competition, each university team received an identical computer with a collection of 10 vulnerable services, and had to simultaneously protect their machines, attack services on other team's computers and identify malicious network traffic.

"The competition required me to learn skills to rapidly develop software to exercise the vulnerabilities in the competition, which, in itself, is exhilarating," said Cadet 2nd Class Kevin Cooper.

Fellow team members said they relished the continually-evolving challenges.

"There are always new problems and puzzles in these competitions," said Cadet 3rd Class Josh Hayden. "I was really glad that even though I am the newest member of the team, I was still able to contribute to our success."

"Being on the cyber team has helped me greatly in preparing to be a cyberspace operations officer in the Air Force, and it gives more context on the threats we'll face defending the U.S. in cyber," said Cadet 1st Class Ryan Zacher, the team captain.

The Cyber Competition Team was coached by Dr. Martin Carlisle, the Academy Center for Cyberspace Research director, with assistance from Maj. David Caswell, Maj. Mike Chiaramonte and Capt. David Hancock, all from the Academy's Computer Sciences Department.

"It's a privilege to be able to work with the Cyber Competition Team," Carlisle said. "They continually impress me with their level of dedication and how successfully they compete on the international stage."

This is the latest in a series of top finishes for the Cyber Competition team, which has showcased its cyber-prowess in a growing number of competitions worldwide. In September, the team placed 10th of 349 undergraduate teams from the U.S. and Canada in the New York University Poly Cyber Security Awareness Week Capture the Flag qualifiers.

The team won the National Security Agency's Cyber Defense Exercise for 2012 and 2013, as well as taking home cyber trophies in 2003 and 2006.

The Academy Cyber Competition team members who competed in this latest cyber competition are Cadets 1st Class Ryan Zacher, Sam Kiekhaefer, Chase King, Keane Lucas, Ray Sou, and Chad Speer; Cadets 2nd Class Matt Aust, Kevin Cooper, Zach Madison, and Bill Parks, and Cadets 3rd Class CJ Edwards, Josh Hayden, Justin Niquette and Eric Wardner.

(Courtesy of U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs)