During the competition, the eight-member team defended the computer network for “Hulk Bulk Shipping.” The network, providing critical services for the fictional shipping business, was being attacked by a “Red Team” that tried to disrupt services. The defenders did not know the size of the network they would be defending until about 12 hours before the competition.
The in-person competition created a new dynamic for the defenders who had no access to computers or the internet outside of those that were part of the competition.
“This means the laptop you are sitting at might have a keylogger sending the hackers everything that you are doing while you are working to secure the system,” Baggs said. “The main challenge I think we hit was just realizing that we needed to be OK with the fact that a lot of the plans that we had formulated in practice fell through during the competition. This round was probably the craziest competition I’ve ever seen, but the way we won was by just staying calm and prioritizing our efforts in the specific directions that we knew other teams would struggle in.”
Baggs said after the first day, the team identified key areas to plan out for the second day, while having no idea of how they were faring against the other defense teams.
“Our team is extremely flexible in dealing with unexpected changes and environments and quickly adapting to them in a very collegial manner,” said team adviser Yonghwi Kwon, the John Knight Career Enhancement Assistant Professor in Computer Science. “Over the years, I have observed that the team is very adaptive, resilient and persistent to uncertain cyberthreats. I believe such capability is what we want for future cybersecurity in general.”
Kwon cited the students’ attitude as being an essential element of their success.
“Our team is always collegial and fun,” Kwon said. “And the students are super excellent at managing a stressful environment.”