Local college students participate in Department of Energy’s CyberForce Competition

Local college students participate in Department of Energy’s CyberForce Competition

Students from 17 colleges across the Pacific Northwest gathered at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory on Saturday to compete against other colleges in similar environments at national laboratories across the country in a cybersecurity contest.

The Department of Energy’s competition is aimed at giving students real-world experience on how to best protect America’s energy infrastructure from cyber attacks. Stuart Steiner, an Eastern Washington University instructor, took his students to the competition for the first time this year.

He explains the competition as consisting of a solar, manufacturing, distribution and high performance computing center. Students and IT professionals come in and secure the facility, while a foreign power led by professionals in the field, attacks endlessly for eight hours to see what they can compromise.

The DOE has worked to increase hands-on cyber education to college students and professionals. They also aim to strengthen awareness into the critical infrastructure, cybersecurity nexus, and basic understanding of cybersecurity within a real-world scenario.

“Everything is cybersecurity-related, and we need people, and this is a great competition to teach students how to secure the nation’s infrastructure, so we are safe from future attackers,” Steiner explained.

Emilio Campos, a computer science student at Eastern Washington University, said he plans to pursue a career in cybersecurity.

“It’s been a great learning experience,” Campos said. “It was really shocking how aggressively the red team will come at you, and what happens, and also resolving issues has been a key part of this learning experience, what happens when a certain attack happens.”

Unfilled cybersecurity careers have reached over 1.5 million in 2019. With the ever-increasing amount of technology placed on the internet, security becomes a high priority.

“Being able to legally hack somebody or defend, it’s an adrenaline rush every time,” Campos said.