West Point takes first in annual Cyber Defense Exercise

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Network warfare

Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point won their third Cyber Defense Exercise this month, building and successfully defending a network against red team attacks to beat out teams from the nation's four other service academies.

The exercise, held April 16-20, pitted student teams from West Point and the Air Force, Naval, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine academies against attackers from the National Security Agency and the Defense Department. The exercise is the culmination of information assurance classes for cadets and midshipmen in computer science and electrical engineering departments. It is a learning experience as much as a test.

'Cadets are exposed to information assurance concepts throughout their academic experience at USMA,' said Maj. Damon Becknel, West Point information warfare professor and CDX coach. 'The exercise allows them to apply their knowledge and experience in a competitive environment.'

Each team had to build and maintain a virtual network that includes a Web server providing dynamic content from a back-end database, an e-mail server with public-key encryption, chat service, file sharing and a Domain Name System server for name resolution.

Also participating in this year's exercise were teams from the Air Force Institute of Technology.

'We had two teams, 36 students, who participated and did quite well,' said Richard A. Raines, director of the Center for Cyberspace Research. 'Since we are a graduate school, we are not scored against the service academies, but our teams typically do quite well.'

Because of the growing interest in the exercise, a steering group of information security specialists has been formed to establish a framework for a national Cyber Defense Exercise that would include state universities.

The NSA will present the Information Assurance Director's Trophy to the West Point team at a ceremony this month.

Past winners of the NSA trophy have been:

    2001U.S. Military Academy

    2002U.S. Military Academy

    2003U.S. Air Force Academy

    2004U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

    2005U.S. Naval Academy

    2006U.S. Air Force Academy

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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