Students fight through cyber security match

May 12, 2011

by Zach Beaird, STAFF REPORTER

Hacking was the name of the game as cyber security students battled it out May 6 at Cyber Storm 2011.

After spending the quarter learning the ins and outs of cyber security, students put their knowledge to the test in this “Star Wars”-themed event.

Jean Gourd, an assistant professor in computer science, said Cyber Storm was an event students have been working on since the beginning of the quarter.

“The students have been working the entire quarter learning how to set up and operate the equipment, servers and networks, as well as securing it all along the way,” Gourd said. “Now, they’re trying to defend that while trying to attack their opponents.”

Students furiously hacked for eight hours, though Gourd said the event has the potential to last much longer with all of the work that goes into attacking and securing a network.

The majority of the students were split into two main teams, the Jedis and the Sith. Both teams earned points by successfully hacking the opposing team as well as keeping their own network secure.

However, four smaller groups issued additional challenges and obstacles for both teams along the way.

The administration, the Force, issued additional challenges and questions throughout the day to give opportunities for extra points. There were also two teams, the Dark Side and the Ewoks, whose only goal was to take both competing teams.

Del Jackson, a graduate student in computational analysis and modeling, was part of one of the teams trying to take down both sides.

“My team’s job was to cause whatever chaos we could,” Jackson said. “We were meant to represent the Internet and all of the problems they can present.”

He said problems on the Internet are ones people should always acknowledge because of how detrimental they can be to cyber security.

“Secure networks can still be hacked if the proper steps are not taken,” Jackson said. “It’s important that students cover themselves to make sure they stay secure.”

The 4th smaller group, the Light Side stayed busy learning how to use the tool sets and looking at the network. Gourd said this team was given a sense of security while they worked during the Cyber Storm.

“The Light Side is not allowed to attack, but they’re also not allowed to be attacked,” he said. “They feel safe.”

With the added opposition, Gourd said the Jedis and Sith spent the day hacking using different tools, some they wrote themselves, in order to achieve certain effects.

“For example, if they’re trying to take down a machine, they might flood the network with as much traffic as possible in an attempt to prevent them from getting anything out, getting anything done and then effectively taking them down,” he said. “They’re not physically down, but their network has got so much information that effectively they’re down.”

In addition to the cyber security students’ day of hacking, students in Gourd’s senior capstone class presented their senior projects during Cyber Storm. The students were given the opportunity to show off the projects, which consisted of the design and implementation of the infrastructure that made the event possible.

Despite all of the fun surrounding the event, Gourd said the event was still to be taken seriously by students.

“Essentially, this is the final exam for the course,” he said. “As fun as it is, it’s supposed to teach the idea that you as an individual actually are a weakling if you’re not aware of cyber security.”

He said cyber security is important not only for one’s own safety but others as well.

“Your laptop can cause a lot of problems and have an effect on other people, so you need to be aware,” Gourd said. “That is what’s important. That’s why we do this.”

Email comments to zcb001@latech.edu.