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CyberForce competition teaches more than just cyber - Daily Leader Extra : Local News

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CyberForce competition teaches more than just cyber

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Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2019 2:36 pm

There is so much more to a cyber competition than just the cyber. Competitors need to be able to adapt to a myriad of challenges, said Racquel Meyer, a computer science and cyber operations major from Madison.

That's the point of the Department of Energy's annual CyberForce competition. The competition scenarios focus on energy infrastructures, including hardware, software, and networking, but also include real-world constraints and lifelike situations such as budget or time constraints. Students must work to balance security and usability for the end user team, called the Green Team.

Customer service skills were helpful working with them, said Tristan Fletcher.

"The Green Team had the ability to submit help tickets and we were expected to respond and communicate in a professional manner," he said. Fletcher is a cyber operations major from Rapid City.

Additionally, skills such as note taking and documentation helped keep track of changes made, said Austin Elbert, a cyber operations major from Watertown.

"The CyberForce competition does a good job providing a wide range of tasks across many different types of cybersecurity skillsets, beyond just defensive network security," said faculty adviser Dr. Cody Welu, an assistant professor of computer and cyber sciences with The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences.

"Our team did a great job adapting to the many challenges of the competition," he said.

They ended in 12th place out of 104 teams at the fifth annual competition. The CyberForce competitions are held concurrently at 10 national labs across the country; DSU's team competed at Argonne National Labs in Illinois.

Cyber security is at the heart of the competition.

"The classes we have here at DSU cover the technical components of a number of different areas of cybersecurity," Welu said. "The students did a great job putting what they learned in the classroom into practice."

Classroom skills include things such as how to properly install a well-secured environment, said Bailey Belisario, a cyber operations major from Cartersville, Ga.

"One of the things I had learned in class I had disregarded as it was poor security practice," Fletcher said. "Luckily I had learned in class how to disable that feature which prevented the Red Team (the attacking team) from abusing it."

Because there's always a vulnerability in a system even if it's completely updated, "it's important to really understand what the system actually is doing and block anything that could potentially be abused," he said.

Because cyber skills come from more than just coursework, Meyer pointed out that "one must always be learning."

Chris Loutsch, a cyber operations major from Milbank, took the initiative to study how to set up an email server for this competition, and some advanced features to make it secure. He also had experience solving cyber challenges from club activities on campus.

"Every student that graduates with one of our degrees will have fantastic skills they've learned and practiced in the classroom," Welu said. "Actually applying that classroom knowledge through internships, applied cybersecurity competitions, and projects outside of the classroom is what makes some students stand above the rest."

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