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Hackfest hopes to raise awareness

May 16, 2014

Dr. Jean Gourd, program chair of computer science and an assistant professor, said Cyber Storm is held to test students skills and raise awareness about network defense. – Photo by Colin Fontenot

Dr. Jean Gourd, program chair of computer science and an assistant professor, said Cyber Storm is held to test students skills and raise awareness about network defense. – Photo by Colin Fontenot


RAY PATTERSON
Staff Reporter

The United States needs 40,000 cyber security professionals who know how to secure infrastructure, said Dr. Jean Gourd, assistant professor and program chair of computer science at Louisiana Tech.

“We have 1,000,” Gourd said.  “There is a huge need, and we’re not pumping them out fast enough.”

This is why Gourd helped to create Cyber Storm, a daylong hackfest and this year it will be tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the TONK.

Gourd said the event is a cyber security competition that pits several teams of students against one another in cyberspace to test their skills in network defense and attack strategies. 

“We have a lot of students come every year,” said Sean Semple, a junior electrical and computer science engineer.  “A lot of the students really enjoy watching other students get frustrated trying to complete challenges.”

The event is free for anyone wanting to attend. 

Teams are awarded points for completing these challenges and this year six teams will compete in games like “King of the Hill” and “Capture the Flag.”

While Semple agrees that the event is fun for the public that attends, he wants people to understand how vulnerable they are to cyber-attacks.

“I want people to have a more security-aimed mindset,” Semple said.  “I hope people are aware of how unsecure everything is.”

Teaching students hacking techniques may be controversial to some, but to Gourd it is a way to develop a strong defense against potential threats.  

“On a high-level discussion, the belief is a knowledge of the offensive techniques helps us to be aware of what is out there so that we can do a better job of defending against them,” Gourd said.

One of the methods used to help defend against cyber threats are computers called “honey pots.”

A honey pot is a machine or computer that is on the internet that is so vulnerable to a threat that it is enticing to an attacker, Gourd said.

“When (the attacker) comes in and takes over the machine, we log everything,” Gourd said.  “We can see how they did it, what new tools and techniques they’re using and that’s how we’ve learned how the bad guys are doing what they are doing.”

Attackers today are capable of hacking into personal computers and obtaining critical personal information, Semple said.

“The information that an attacker can get from someone’s computer is crazy,” Semple said.  “Whether it be your bank account information, important log-in information or email passwords, an attacker can get all of that.”

Gourd and Semple both feel as if awareness and education are two important aspects that they try to get people to take away from Cyber Storm.

“Just be aware,” Gourd said.  “Just about everything we do has some sort of involvement with cyberspace, and there are major risks.”

Email comments to rcp022@latech.edu. 

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