USAFA cadets make finals of National CCDC

Members of the Air Force Academy Cyber Competition team toured the 90th Information Operations Squadron April 25.  The team was in San Antonio for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.  (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Meredith Hein)

Members of the Air Force Academy Cyber Competition team toured the 90th Information Operations Squadron April 25. The team was in San Antonio for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Meredith Hein)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas --

Cadets from the United States Air Force Academy Cyber Competition Team participated in the finals of the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in San Antonio, Texas, April 25-27. 

The competition focused on time management to perform against the clock, application of practical knowledge in real time and teamwork to create a sound strategy, according to the CCDC website. 

"The Air Force Academy is committed to producing highly technically qualified lieutenants to lead the defense of our Air Force and nation in cyber.  Competitions like this are incredibly motivational and give cadets invaluable experience facing the kinds of threats we see on networks daily," said Dr. Martin Carlisle, director of the Academy Center for Cyberspace Research.

There were three main components to this year's competition, according to the competition's website.  First, teams were required to maintain a network and its affiliated services.  Next, each team had to respond to changes in security and changes in their networks.  Finally, teams had to defend their network from malicious attacks. 

"It's fun," said Cadet 1st Class Ryan Zacher, captain of the Cyber Competition Team.  "The challenge of protecting a network and constantly battling is cool."

The competition's scenario stated that a fictional company hired an all-new IT staff, the students, to protect the network.  The students were then given control of said network without much additional information.  The students then had to learn about the network and respond to requests from their Chief Information Officer throughout the competition. 

"It's always great to get more experience doing things of this nature in cyber," said Cadet 1st Class Chad Speer.  "It's cool because we are not given any boundaries because cyber is a man-made domain." 

 The National CCDC was the senior class's last competition with the Air Force Academy team.  Recently, the cadets took second place in the National Security Administration's inter-service Cyber Defense Exercise April 8-11. 

The mission of the CCDC is to provide institutions with information assurance or computer security curriculums with a competitive environment to assess their students' depth of understanding and operational competency in managing the challenges inherent to protecting a network infrastructure, according to the organization's website.

"There is a difference between learning in the classroom and actually doing it," said Cadet 1st Class Keane Lucas. 

The competition was created by the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security at the University of Texas at San Antonio, which also serves as the lead technical advisor for CyberPatriot, the nation's largest high school cyber defense competition. 

Ten semi-final victors competed in this year's finals in San Antonio.  The Air Force Academy is the only service academy to make the finals this year.  This is the fourth consecutive year that the team has made the national finals of the CCDC. This year, the University of Central Florida took first place in the competition. 

"It's all about exposure," said Zacher.  "Having seen what can be done in cyber gives us a step ahead as we move forward in this domain."