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Students compete in cyberforce competition at National Energy Technology Laboratory

Students competing in the 2019 CyberForce Competition at the National Energy Technology Laboratory site in Morgantown.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—Cybersecurity students in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University participated in the national CyberForce Competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy at the National Energy Technology Laboratory site in Morgantown on Nov. 16. 

The competition was developed by the DOE to address the need for cybersecurity professionals and focused on the defensive and hardening nature of energy cyber infrastructure.

“There is a huge need for cybersecurity professionals with more jobs being created than people to fill them,” said David Krovich, a research associate of computer science and electrical engineering in the Statler College and the team’s adviser. “The shortage is particularly alarming when you think about critical infrastructure such as the energy grid becoming more and more dependent on finding qualified cybersecurity professionals to operate in a secure and reliable manner.”

Samuel Kidder, a sophomore cybersecurity major from Fairmont explained that the competition helped him secure the understanding that he would like to work in the incident response field. “I learned a lot about securing network traffic and how important monitoring traffic is,” Kidder said.

“The competition was a day full of exciting computer interactions,” Kidder said. “We were provided six computers two weeks prior to the competition, most of them filled with malware. We were required to install certain services and keep those services running for the duration of the competition.”

Other students who competed in the competition were Brandon Rossi, Alex Martin, Na’ima Alhabbas, Sean Kreps and Samuel Britton.

“Our biggest takeaway as a team was to stress the written documentation,” Kidder said. “Most people in the workforce now don’t have as much computer experience that we as cybersecurity researchers have.”

Through the CyberForce Competition, the DOE has worked to increase hands-on cyber education to college students and professionals, awareness into the critical infrastructure and cybersecurity nexus and basic understanding of cybersecurity within a real-world scenario.

“Competitions such as this help address the cybersecurity skills gap by giving the next generation an opportunity to practice tools and techniques they have learned in a realistic environment while professional hackers actively try to compromise their network,” Krovich said.

The team was funded by the Lane Department and the Statler College.