The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

The student-run newspaper of the Liberal Arts and Science Academy

The Liberator

CyberPatriots Compete to Crack the Code

Raptors Have Recent Success in National Cybersecurity Competition
Tita Gonzalez

From March 15-19, the LASA CyberPatriot club competed at the CyberPatriot XVI National Open Division Finals, a competition in which students compete to fix cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Some students went to Maryland to compete in the in-person event, and all members of the club learned cybersecurity skills that can be applied for future career paths. 

According to junior Arhant Choudhary, a qualifier for the national competition, the activity feels like a game and is very enjoyable. He explained that in competitions, competitors have to work with Virtual Machines, also known as VMs or “images,” that simulate a real computer. 

“[The VMs] have various vulnerabilities in them, and you get together with a team and during the competition time, you go and try to fix those vulnerabilities,” Choudhary said. “It’s very fun, and although it’s framed as a cybersecurity competition, it’s more of a game. 50% is cybersecurity, 50% is CyberPatriot humor and fun. I think what made me stick to it is that nice balance.” 

Choudhary explained that out of 300 teams in the Platinum Semifinals, 12 teams qualified for the national competition, which his team regarded as a huge moment. Upon attending the actual competition, he noticed that it was a very high-energy environment.

“We were really shocked because of all the fanfare and stuff, but the competition was really cool, and they had a very nice area set up,” Choudhary said. “The images (the challenge) were live images with a live ‘Red Team’ [hackers] trying to attack your computer as well.” 

 Junior Maxim Rebguns, a member of the CyberPatriot club, explained the specifics of some of the roles in a CyberPatriot team. With three different VMs to fix, plus other tasks that must be completed by each team, he conveyed that specialization was important for this competition. 

“Some teams typically have a Windows person, a Linux person,” Rebguns said. “Those are two different types of operating systems. We have a Cisco person. Cisco is the networking portion, which is highly specialized. There’s also Windows Server.” 

James Shockey is the sponsor of the CyberPatriot club, as well as a computer science teacher at LASA. He is tasked with communicating with parents and the school administration and is responsible for bringing the food to competitions.

“I’m the faculty sponsor and my role really is just trying to be the interface between the national organization and the student organization,” Shockey said. “Also we do our contests here in the labs, both these two rooms and then now it’s 711. We essentially do the lab maintenance as well, setting up the computers for the virtual machines and the images that are going to be used for the competition.”

After explaining his role in the CyberPatriots program, Shockey expressed the impact this club could have on a student’s future career paths. According to their website, CyberPatriots was created to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity, and Shockey believes that the program allows students to gain a lot of skills to aid towards that path.

“If you’re going to go to college and major in STEM fields, there are some good things,” Shockey said. “And it’s really pretty cool because the competitions are these virtual images that reflect what you might see in an actual workplace. So you’re getting a real-world engagement with this.”

Additionally, Shockey mentioned that the importance of CyberPatriots has gone up due to the major computer database-related hacks that have become increasingly common and have made cybersecurity an essential field since these hacks disrupt many industries in the U.S.. Rebguns added that the nature of the club creates many opportunities, including the chance to have internships or scholarships relating to cybersecurity.

“It would look good on a college application,” Rebguns said. “But I guess that’s not really the goal. It’s more of just a club that people who are interested in come to and it’s grown to such a large thing.”

According to Choudhary, the club is always looking for members. The CyberPatriots meet on Thursdays at lunch and anyone curious about the activity is welcome to join.

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