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A Contest to Train Cyber Combatants

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DoD supercomputer

Credit: Associated Press

A consortium that includes the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the SANS Institute, and the U.S. Department of Defense aims to cultivate a new generation of computer security and network administration experts with a triathlon of contests designed to inspire students to become technically proficient in protecting cyberspace. SANS Institute research director Alan Paller points to a shortage of cyberdefenders graduating from schools, estimating that the United States needs about 20,000 to 30,000 people capable of competing in a cybercompetition, versus about 1,000 now.

The U.S. Cyber Challenge includes DC3's Digital Forensics Competition, in which teams vie to solve a series of puzzles that an expert might encounter when probing a crime. Almost 600 teams have registered for the contest so far this year, compared to 199 teams in 2008. The second contest is the CyberPatriot High School Cyber Defense Competition, whose goal is to nurture high school students' knowledge of network defense. The contest is run by the Air Force Association and the University of Texas at San Antonio's Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security. The third competition is NetWars, a SANS Institute-hosted capture-the-flag tournament waged on a virtual private network over the Internet. Teams are awarded points for assaulting other teams' virtual machines and commandeering certain services and files. Players attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in their rivals' systems and then protect the systems they compromised from the other attackers.

The federal government has not announced funding for the U.S. Cyber Challenge, but companies such as Google and state governments such as Delaware have already expressed interest in participating in the competitions.

From Technology Review
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