On Saturday, April 2, 2011, student teams from Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland, Howard University, the US Military Academy at West Point, and the Community College of Baltimore County participated in Virginia Tech’s inaugural Cyber Security Summit. The summit featured a morning of presentations from speakers in the cyber security field, followed by an afternoon competition where teams faced off in efforts to attack and defend computer networks.
With nearly 60 attendees, the event was organized and hosted by Virginia Tech IT security analysts, graduate students from the IT Security Lab, and the Linux and Unix Users Group. Funding for the event was provided by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities consortium and the Virginia Tech – Howard University Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence program.
Featured speakers included individuals from United States Cyber Command, Scitor, and Northrop Grumman. The diverse viewpoints from government, industry, and academia provided an excellent basis for understanding why competitions such as these are important in developing future cyber warriors.
During the afternoon, the student teams faced off in a range of computer security events. A trivia event tested teams’ knowledge of security topics and ability to perform digital forensics. A computer attack event challenged participants to penetrate a target network and map the computers connected to the network. Another event had students break into a web server by identify programming flaws in a web-based application.
The events were conducted under the rules of the US Cyber Challenge, a national coalition of public-private sector entities collaborating to enhance the workforce with the next generation of cyber security professionals through skill development activities, mentoring, and resources, and the facilitation of scholarship, internship and employment opportunities.
“The summit competition was designed to test the skill levels of the student teams in a number of areas including the traditional hacking techniques as well as general problem solving skills,” said Randy Marchany, director of Virginia Tech’s IT Security Lab and the University’s Chief Information Security Officer. “We were very pleased with the level of interest and student engagement, and look forward to hosting similar events in the future.
In the end, Virginia Tech leveraged its home-field advantage to win the top spot in the competition. The team excelled at the forensics and trivia events. Runners up included the University of Maryland and West Point.
This event is one of a number of cyber security initiatives underway at Virginia Tech to develop education and research efforts that address the critical need of industry and government. Another such initiative is a research project that leverages Virginia Tech’s use of IPv6, the next-generation Internet communication protocol, to create constantly changing networks to achieve a moving target defense against cyber attacks. This patent pending research initiative was recently awarded first place poster in the Graduate Student Assembly Research Symposium, and is a finalist in the National Security Innovation Competition.
In June 2011, Virginia Tech is opening is new research facility in Arlington, Va., which will feature a cyber security laboratory, operated jointly by Virginia Tech and the Naval Postgraduate School, that will conduct research and development in applied computer and network security.
In August 2011, Virginia Tech will be launching a new undergraduate minor in cyber security, which requires six interdisciplinary courses covering topics ranging from computer architecture and networks to Internet law.