CSE Whitehatters Computer Security Club places in the top third nationally at the Department of Energy’s CyberForce Competition

November 20, 2019


In their first appearance at the Department of Energy’s CyberForce Competition, the Whitehatters Computer Security Club (WCSC) placed in the top third nationally (31 out of 104), beating such notable institutions as Carnegie Mellon University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Columbia University, New York University and the University of California Berkeley.  The CyberForce Competition, held on November 16, involved six-member teams defending (blue-teaming) an assigned network to prevent cyberattackers from infiltrating the network. Each of the 104 institutions were assigned to one of 10 DOE National Laboratories, with the WCSC competing at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This year’s competition involved a scenario where teams were assigned to defend either a manufacturing plant, solar energy generation facility, high performance computing data center, or an energy distribution substation. These four facilities were then interconnected and a simulation was run with end users working on the networks of the four facilities while attackers tried to gain access and disrupt the facilities. The WCSC was assigned a manufacturing facility and was tasked with hardening the facility prior to arriving at Sandia, and then once the competition started, keeping the hackers out and the facility up and running.  The assigned attackers (red team) praised the WCSC and their ability to not only harden the facility’s network, but also to defend the facility against the active attack.

The members of the WCSC Blue Team include Alexandra Whitaker, Christina Glover, Dimitar Marinov, Jackob Kesler, Truvis Thornton and William Murphy. The team was advised by Jason Lewis, an instructor of cybersecurity in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Travel to the competition was sponsored by the CSE Computing Partners Program.

This is the fifth time the DOE has hosted the CyberForce Competition. “Through the CyberForce Competition™, DOE has worked to increase 1) hands-on cyber education to college students and professionals, 2) awareness into the critical infrastructure and cyber security nexus, and 3) basic understanding of cyber security within a real world scenario,” their website stated.