NetWars helps develop the future of cybersecurity

Federal and state government offices embrace cyber war competitions to build up the computer security talent pool.

Government agencies are increasingly turning to tournament formats to recruit new talent, deliver training and generate the competitive mettle needed to build a solid defense against today’s permanent threats.

Government staffers and contractors mixed it up with students and industry computer security pros Dec. 12-13 to score points against one another in the SANS Institute’s NetWars Tournament of Champions competition in Washington, D.C.

High school students are a particular focus of the event, as ultimately they will wear either black hats or white hats in the real theaters of cyber war. 

"The tools are out there on the open market," Randall Brazelton, a program manager with Tyonek Native and a contractor for the U.S. Air Force, told NetworkWorld.  "A training class or two, some open-source tools, and I'm a threat."
Government agencies and military bases are conducting NetWars training  on their own sites to help identify skilled personnel. The Air Force has been using its own version of NetWars for the last two years to train its network security staff, according to the Network World report.

States are also turning to tournament format to identify young computer security prospects to bolster the local cyber defense talent pool.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie sponsors the Governors Cup Challenge, a statewide competition to identify the state’s best cyber security prospects and to help them get a head start on their careers. The program features on-line courses, competitions, a community college curriculum, workplace internships and is open to returning veterans, current members of the armed services, job seekers and college students.

Virginia has also paired up with Netwars to sponsor a statewide Governor’s Cup competition  that is open to high school students. As in New Jersey, participants are offered an online tutorial, including competitive quizzes on networks, operating systems and systems administration as well as access to the NetWars interactive learning program.

Down the road, SANS plans other real-world security training environments, including CyberCity, a model city featuring a military installation, power plant, hospital and other buildings where trainees can practice how to react to cyber threat scenarios in even more realistic surroundings.

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