[ISN] Air Force cadets face hackers in cyberbattle

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Apr 25 2002 - 01:10:24 PDT

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    The Gazette 
    (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
    Apr. 24, 2002
    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The military's might increasingly depends on
    computers, but that created a target for the enemy.
    Air Force Academy cadets are finding out this week how hard it can be
    to protect computers from bad guys.
    They are playing defense against some of the best hackers: computer
    experts from military and intelligence agencies.
    It's the second annual Cyber Defense Exercise, a competition involving
    the Air Force Academy, the Military Academy at West Point, the Naval
    Academy, the Coast Guard Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School.
    Students at each school are being attacked by the professionals and
    scored on how well they defend their systems. The competition began
    Monday and ends Friday.
    Computer defense is critical for the military, which has 2 1/2 million
    computers and is finding the number of cyber attacks is exploding.
    In 2000, there were more than 23,000 attempted attacks, but officials
    refuse to say who was attacking. Last year, attacks jumped to more
    than 41,000, said Army Maj. Barry Venable, spokesman for Colorado
    Springs-based U.S. Space Command, which oversees computer defense.
    Attacks are up, but the military has gotten better at defending their
    systems, Venable said. "We have information superiority," he said.
    In a classroom at the Air Force Academy, 20 cadets are learning how to
    have that superiority. Two weeks ago they were given 13 computers and
    told to build defenses for them.
    The computers were typical of the computers sold to consumers, full of
    holes that can be targeted by hackers to capture systems.
    These computer science and computer engineering majors built such
    defenses as firewalls and e-mail protections, and studied hacking
    For many of the cadets in the exercise, it's the first time they have
    applied their book knowledge to defending computers.
    "It's raw experience you can't get in the classroom," Steven Norris, a
    21-year-old senior, said Tuesday. "You have to make mistakes. It's
    like a mechanic learning to fix a car in a book. You have to touch a
    Norris and some of his classmates spent five hours or more a day in
    the lab this week, monitoring and responding to attacks by the "red
    By late Tuesday, the aggressors successfully broke into one of the
    cadets' systems, costing them points in the competition.
    Cadet Jay Ford, 22, a senior, plans to fly jets, but he finds value in
    the exercise.
    "The problem is always there. Computer security needs to be a mindset,
    not just a series of practices," he said.
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