Academy places 2nd in NSA cyber competition

  • Published
  • By John Van Winkle
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs
The U.S. Air Force Academy's Cyber Team took second place in the National Security Administration's 15th annual Cyber Defense Exercise April 13-16.

Navy won the competition and the Army took third place. The Academy tied for first place in the reverse engineering challenge with a perfect score.

"Cadet 1st class Kevin Cooper did an amazing job leading the Academy team," said Dr. Martin Carlisle, head of the Academy's Computer Science Department, and the Cyber Competition Team coach. "Both leading up to and during the exercise he put in a tremendous number of hours of effort. Cadet 1st Class Bill Parks led our efforts for the challenge modules."

The entire exercise was conducted on virtual private networks.

Cadets and midshipmen from the Air Force Academy, U.S. Coast Guard Academy, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and Royal Military College of Canada, pitted their cyber security skills against top NSA information assurance professionals.

Network specialists who secure the U.S. government's most sensitive communication systems challenged the ability of the service academy teams to defend computer networks cadets and midshipmen designed. Other specialists graded each team's ability to maintain network services while detecting, responding to and recovering from security intrusions or compromises.

Participating academies were assessed on their ability to maintain network services while detecting and responding to network intrusions and compromises. The teams were graded on their ability to maintain an email server, file server, web server and domain controller. Cadets and midshipmen completed three challenge modules, performing network forensics, host forensics and reverse engineering software.

The event allowed cadets to test and build their cyber skills while bolstering the Air Force Academy's cyber prowess, as the Academy prepares to launch a new Cyber Innovation Center, Carlisle said.

"Of all the competitions we do, the NSA Cyber Defense Exercise requires the most intense preparation," he said. "We're very proud of the hard work our cadets have put into cyber coursework and competitions this year. We're in the business of producing leaders for our Air Force who have deep knowledge of the potentials and threats we face in the cyber domain and are confident the lieutenants we graduate will take us to the next level."

The Academy is uniquely positioned to prepare leaders to counter the growing cyber vulnerabilities and cyberattacks from adversaries, thanks to the breadth of expertise and its extensive network of industry and government partners, Carlisle said.

The Academy plans to leverage those assets to establish the Air Force Cyber Innovation Center at the Academy, Carlisle said.

"The purpose of the Cyber Innovation Center is to equip cadets to meet Air Force mission requirements and develop unparalleled cyber acumen in future Air Force leaders, through cutting-edge education, collaborative research and realistic training," he said.