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March 19, 2014

College Teams Defend Against Professional Hackers in “Operation Cyber Blizzard” at Johns Hopkins APL


University of Maryland CCDC students
Students from the University of Maryland compete at the 2013 National CyberWatch Center Mid-Atlantic Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) at APL; Millersville (Pa.) University won the competition. This year’s theme involves a fictitious, massive winter blizzard that has thrown Maryland into a state of emergency, and cyberattacks are threatening relief efforts. Eight college teams will each take the role of a “field operations unit,” deployed to a specific area designated as a local disaster aid distribution center, while fighting off attacks from cyber adversaries.
Credit: JHU/APL.

College cyber defenders from eight schools across the mid-Atlantic will spend two days protecting a simulated disaster response against expert computer hackers at the 2014 National CyberWatch Center Mid-Atlantic Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC), to be held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., March 26–29. The entire four-day event, which also includes a job fair for college students and a high school expo, is free and open to the public.

This year’s scenario is built around disaster management: A fictitious, massive winter blizzard has thrown Maryland into a state of emergency, and cyber attacks are threatening relief efforts. The eight college teams will each take the role of a “field operations unit,” deployed to a specific area designated as a local disaster aid distribution center. The teams will be responsible for deploying the computer systems to support disaster response and deliver aid. As if that wasn’t a big enough challenge, a group of “cyber terrorists” — played by professional security experts — will attempt to disrupt the relief efforts. Spectators will play an important role at this year’s event, by acting as displaced persons and providing data for aid and supplies.

The CCDC is designed to give students the chance to apply classroom theory and skills to defend against real-time targeted cyberattacks, led by professional security testers (the “red team”), in a controlled, scored setting. Each competition revolves around a compelling, simulated scenario — based on real-world systems such as power grids and health care data networks — that represents the effects of various cyberattacks.

“The CCDC is unlike other cybersecurity challenges because we give the students a real-world, hands-on experience of managing a high-stakes situation,” says Lewis Lightner, director of the National CyberWatch Center at Prince George’s (Md.) Community College. “The professional penetration testers don’t hold back, and it teaches the teams how to handle the kinds of relentless attacks they might see in their careers. It’s a great educational experience, and a great way to give students a chance to learn from some of the best.”

Eight teams of students from two- and four-year colleges and universities will vie for the mid-Atlantic regional title during the March 26–29 competition, held at the Kossiakoff Center at APL. The teams are:

  • Anne Arundel (Md.) Community College
  • Liberty University (Va.)
  • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
  • West Virginia University
  • Towson University (Md.)
  • Radford University (Va.)
  • Capitol College (Md.)
  • Millersville University (Pa.)

The winning team will move on to the Raytheon National CCDC on April 25–27 in San Antonio.

On March 27, the CCDC will host a job fair for students at schools within the National CyberWatch Center network, featuring dozens of recruiters from private industry and the government. On March 29, the High School Cybersecurity Fair and Expo will give high school students the chance to see the CCDC in action, and learn more about careers in cybersecurity, certificate and college options, scholarships, and admission processes from on-site college recruiters.

The Mid-Atlantic CCDC, part of the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, is coordinated and run by the National CyberWatch Center, an Advanced Technological Education Center funded by the National Science Foundation.

Links:
Mid-Atlantic CCDC
Video of the 2013 Mid-Atlantic CCDC (YouTube)
Video of the 2012 Mid-Atlantic CCDC (YouTube)
Directions to Johns Hopkins APL and the Kossiakoff Center
National CCDC

Media contact: Geoff Brown, 240-228-5618 or 443-778-5618, Geoffrey.Brown@jhuapl.edu

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.