April 27, 2019, four ASMS students journeyed to Tuscaloosa to compete in the University of Alabama Capture-the-Flag (CTF) competition. Aidan Anderson, Zach Davis, Vasilisa Douglas, and Eve Hawkins teamed up to capture a first place win. They demonstrated exemplary teamwork and problem-solving skills, collaborating and applying their individual strengths to solve problems ranging from code-breaking; cryptography; database security; email, file, and network analysis; to website security and social engineering.
“Watching our team inch up the live event leaderboard during the 9 AM to 2 PM competition was exciting,” says coach and Computer Science Instructor Deborah Gray.
This win was a cumulation of the first year’s efforts in cybersecurity competitions. New to this area of computing, two CyberDragon teams formed and competed in the CyberPatriot competitions. These competitions are 6-hours each, that involve searching for vulnerabilities in different operating system images and completing networking packet tracing exercises.
“The challenges and the team bonding environment [were my favorite parts of this competition],” says ASMS sophomore Aidan Anderson. “I had the chance to get experience in an interest I’ve had for years. The ability to learn and be challenged in the cybersecurity field was a huge benefit.”
Both teams reached the gold tier, one placing third in the Alabama open division. The venture into the National Cyber League competition (primarily university teams) opened the eyes of the CyberDragons to what they needed to learn about the different types of capture-the-flag challenges.
“I enjoyed working as a team during the competition and how there was no pressure especially since I had little prior experience,” says ASMS sophomore Vasilisa Douglas. “I had a very fun time and I learned a little more about CTF. I was able to successfully do a cryptography challenge that involved decoding. I benefited by being able to make new friends and learning more about cybersecurity.”
This competition not only has given the CyberDragon team members a better understanding of cybersecurity, but also other life skills.
“I enjoyed getting to put skills I’ve learned over time to the test against others,” says ASMS junior Zach Davis. “This event taught me effective strategies for working with a team and exposed me to new topics in computer science.”
On April 25th, students took a few hours out of their school day to compete in the online 24-hour National Governor’s Association CTF Challenge event, placing 29th out of over 300 teams. ASMS was also recognized for registering more than 20 girls in the GirlsGoCyberstart challenge. Now in the second stage, girls are collaborating to learn and work their way through over 200 GirlsGo Cyberstart challenges.
“I am so proud of our ASMS students that stepped up to join in cybersecurity competitions this year for the first time,” says Gray. “Their persistence and teamwork and joy in solving cybersecurity challenges led to a number of wins. The CyberDragon enthusiasm has sparked a student-led group to create a CyberSecurity Club that will encourage more students to learn and compete in a wide range of capture-the-flag and CyberPatriot’s competitions next year. Cybersecurity challenges are a fun way to learn about computing and security, how to work together as a team to solve problems, and how to be contributing digital citizens that can make a difference in our future.”
Congratulations to the ASMS CyberDragons and Ms. Deborah Gray for a fantastic year of computing!