Students Defend ‘Operation Transit Storm’

Friday, March 20, 2015 @ 04:03 PM gHale

College students from 10 mid-Atlantic schools will defend a virtual mass transportation computer system against full-scale cyberattacks at the 10th Annual National CyberWatch Center Mid-Atlantic Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, March 27-28.

The Mid-Atlantic CCDC gives students the chance to apply classroom theory and skills to defend against real-time targeted cyber attackers, led by professional security testers, in a controlled, scored setting.

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Each competition revolves around a simulated scenario — based on real-world systems such as elections and health care — that shows students the effects of various cyberattacks.

This year’s scenario, “Operation Transit Storm,” pits the college teams against the fictitious Hackistan Army of Liberation (HAL), portrayed by professional cybersecurity researchers.

The teams learn HAL has publicly threatened U.S. citizens and plans to target regional commuter rail control networks and information systems. The college teams will attempt to operate a simulated version of a commuter rail system’s IT infrastructure, and be responsible for defending and maintaining the system for the duration of the competition, enduring numerous attempts to sabotage and disrupt the railway.

“The Mid-Atlantic CCDC is special because we really give these young men and women a tough challenge,” said Lewis Lightner, director of the National CyberWatch Center at Prince George’s (Maryland) Community College. “We drop them into a scenario they don’t know much about, with infrastructure they’ve never used before, and then we throw professional cybersecurity testers at them. It’s a great simulation of what cybersecurity is sometimes like in the real world, and it gives them a unique way to learn and improve their skills while under fire.”

The event will take place over the course of three days. The CCDC kicks off on Thursday, March 26, with opening remarks from Admiral Patrick M. Walsh (USN, Ret.), senior vice president, iSIGHT Partners; that will be followed by a job fair featuring government agencies and private firms. The two-day competition begins on Friday, March 27. On Saturday, March 28, there will be a K-12 fair and expo to learn about cybersecurity as a field of study and as a career. The entire three-day event is free and open to the public.

Ten teams of students from two- and four-year colleges and universities will vie for the mid-Atlantic regional title during the competition, held at the Kossiakoff Center at APL.

The teams include:
• Anne Arundel Community College (Maryland)
• Capitol Technology University (Maryland)
• County College of Morris (New Jersey)
• East Carolina University (North Carolina)
• James Madison University (Virginia)
• Liberty University (Virginia)
• Towson University (Maryland)
• University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) (Maryland)
• University of Maryland, College Park (Maryland)
• Wilmington University (Delaware)

The winning team will compete in the Raytheon National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition April 24–26, in San Antonio.

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