UW Bothell News

Student Sleuths Fight Online Predators

Student Sleuths Fight Online Predators

Published: March 20, 2012

Cyber Defense Competition


Update:  In its first year of competition, the UW Bothell team placed 5 out of 11 teams in the competition. Team UW Seattle won the competition and will compete in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in San Antonio. Team UW Bothell is already preparing for next year's competition.

On March 25, there will be an attack on the UW Bothell campus. Interlopers from around the region will attempt to sabotage our computer servers and access the valuable data stored within.

This scenario is real, but carefully orchestrated. The Pacific Rim Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) takes place March 25-26. Eleven teams will participate, including teams from UW Bothell, UW Seattle and UW Tacoma. The actual competition will take place at Highline Community College, but competitors will be using servers that physically reside at UW Bothell.

In the competition, student teams are presented with a pre-configured systems of a fictitious company that they are tasked to operate. The evil red team, which sits next door, will attempt to vandalize and break into the network. The student teams need to defend against the attacks of this red team. In particular, the goals for each team are to:

  • fulfill assigned business tasks (so-called injects)
  • keep services operational
  • prevent break-ins by the red team

"Students will be challenged to keep their websites up and running even though it's getting hacked," says Lucas Reber, IT information architect. Reber, along with IT colleague Josh Larios and Computing and Software Systems (CSS) program director Mike Stiber will provide the servers that serve as the proving ground for the competition. CSS Faculty member Mark Kochanski is the coach of the UW Bothell CSS team.

Along with his daily job of keeping the UW Bothell network secure and running, Reber is also associate director for infrastructure at the University of Washington Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity (CIAC). The center includes faculty and staff from all three UW campuses, as well as personnel from the National Security Agency.

Websites are under attack every minute of every day. About 51 percent of website traffic is not generated by humans, but through automated software programs -- many of which are programmed for the intent of malicious activity according to the cloud-based service, Incapsula. (Full Article)

Hacking isn't bad, Cracking is bad.

"We're going to do everything we can to take over the student network and ruin their day," Reber says. The students will also have to answer to supervisors and do daily activities as in a real-world business environment. Among the professionals trying to derail the student teams are representatives from the Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) and professionals from Boeing and local hacker groups.

At the end of the two-day event, students will have the opportunity to debrief and network with their professional foes.

UW Bothell: On the Leading Edge of Cybersecurity Education

Working with the CIAC, UW Bothell has become a leader in cybersecurity education. "We are training students to step into leadership positions at organizations that have gone to cloud environments," Reber says. "We are going to direction that every organization needs to go – business is already there. Reber says UW Bothell is establishing a research environment tied to the CIAC that will work on analyzing and categorizing malware. Plus, they are creating a server environment on which students, staff and faculty and staff can demonstrate various security challenges. "Thanks to the support we have at UW Bothell and our great collaborators, we are a lot further ahead than most schools."

Plans are underway to introduce a master of science degree in cybersecurity. "We plan to work with organizations and security professionals in the region to build an education and research environment second to none in this domain," says Michael Stiber, director of the CSS program.