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Nsa's Boot Camp For Cyberdefense

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If you're the kind of person who worries about the security of computer networks, you should know that the National Security Agency is worrying about it too.

Since Tuesday, the NSA has been conducting its 10th annual Cyber Defense Exercise, a competition that pits students from a series of military academies against each other--and against the competition's leaders at NSA--in a bid to see who has the best cyberdefense skills. The idea? To "build and defend computer networks against simulated intrusions by the National Security Agency/Central Security Services Red Team."

The competition will last until Friday when that Red team, or "red cell," as it's known, will cease its attacks on the students' newly-built networks. The goal is to help the students learn about the topic of Information Assurance, and how it is used to protect the most vital information systems in the United States and Canada. As they work, the students must defend their networks and offer up consistent reports on what they're doing and on the attacks they're identifying.

This year, eight academies are competing: the United States Military Academy (West Point); the United States Naval Academy; the United States Air Force Academy; the United States Coast Guard Academy; the United States Merchant Marine Academy; the Naval Postgraduate School; the Air Force Institute of Technology; and the Royal Military College of Canada.

The exercise is being hosted by Lockheed Martin in Greenbelt, Md., and during the four days of the competition, NSA and U.S. Department of Defense personnel are acting as evaluators--even as the NSA's red team challenges the students with constant network attacks, all of which must be "publicly-available, well-documented vulnerabilities." The competition takes place on a closed network that does not access the Internet.

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