Through the months of October to January, New England Institute of Technology Assistant Professor of Network Engineering and Cyber Security, Jesse Roberts, led a team of four students from East Greenwich High School to a top-tier finish at the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The team placed number one in the state of Rhode Island and was one of two teams to compete in the highest tier in the state of Rhode Island. The CyberPatriot competition includes nearly 1,700 teams competing from across the United States.
CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program. The organization was conceived by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire students toward careers in cyber-security or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future.
At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. The competition puts teams of high school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. Each team receives access to the Microsoft Developers Network Academic Alliance. This allows the team to download several operating systems and productivity tools that can be used to prepare for the competition.
Before the rounds of competition, teams download “virtual image” representations of operating systems with known flaws, or cyber-security “vulnerabilities.” Teams must find the flaws while keeping computer functions (such as email “services”) working. Team progress is recorded by a central CyberPatriot scoring system.
In the later rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cyber-security vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services.
Teams compete for the top placement within their state and region. Teams which reach the platinum tier in each state get a chance to compete in the regional competition. Top teams in the nation earn all-expenses paid trips to Baltimore, MD for the National Finals Competition where they compete face-to-face against other teams to defend virtual networks from a professional aggressor team. Winners of the National Finals are awarded scholarship grants.
“The students from East Greenwich High School were amazing, as was the East Greenwich High School cyber security coach, Donna Wayles,” says Roberts. “Sam Delong, Anthony Agatiello, Bryce Ingram and Conor Mason are extraordinarily talented young men. I’m happy to see them so interested in Cyber Security especially given the current state of affairs in the industry. The competition is a great tool to get younger kids more involved in this rapidly growing industry.”