April 08, 2022
By Jonas Grinkewitz
The Virginia Coast Cyber Security Student Association (CVCSA) hosted its inaugural capture the flag competition, CyberForge 2022, on March 26 at Old Dominion University. Teams of cybersecurity students competed in various challenges in a Jeopardy!-style format.
“CyberForge is the culmination of more than a year of planning by the CVCSA team, and it was a huge success,” said John Costanzo, managing director of the Coastal Virginia Center for Cyber Innovation (COVA CCI). “These types of events bring together students from different schools who have a diverse level of cyber experience and skills in an environment where they are tested in real time.”
Sixty-one students working on 23 teams from ODU, Tidewater Community College, ECPI University and Virginia Beach City Public Schools, representing the Center for Advanced Technology and Princess Anne High School, participated in the event.
“As the regional node of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, one of our goals is to promote collaboration between regional partners, which our student association has demonstrated through this event,” said Brian Payne, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and COVA Director. CCI.
James Read, CVCSA President and ODU Cybersecurity Graduate Student, said, “As a regional association, CVCSA looks forward to bringing this event to other schools, highlighting their students and campuses, while bringing together students from across the region to develop their skills and teamwork through gamified learning”.
ODU students Riley Pfister, Trevor Simmons and Kirk Smith took first place in the event. Cameron Grimsley, Donovan Coats, Brysen Korr and Martin Philips from the Center for Advanced Technology came in second. A team consisting of Arthur Hill and John Hill (ODU) and Sebastian Tubbs and Scott Maker (TCC) came in third place.
“Capture the flag events are fun, and I’ve learned something I didn’t know before at each one I’ve been to,” said Pfister, a senior in ODU’s cybersecurity bachelor’s program. “Your capture of the flag is going to be confusing or even overwhelming, but jump in and get the job done. You may not win, but you will leave the event knowing more than you did at the start, and that’s a win.”
Each team had to examine a network capture file for data to enter into a website to find the flag. Simmons said this was a different challenge that involved using a software program that he doesn’t normally use.
“These events are a great way to improve existing skills and learn new ones,” said Simmons.
Funded by COVA CCI, the CVCSA was first envisioned during the Spring 2020 COVA CCI sponsored Innovate Cyber Challenge, where students from ODU, Christopher Newport University, Tidewater Community College developed the idea of creating a student organization focused on in closing the cybersecurity skills gap. and prepare students to enter the workforce. They plan to do this by partnering with cyber security clubs found within universities and colleges in the region.
“CVCSA’s mission is to ‘bridge the gap’ by helping students bridge the gap between the skills they learn in the classroom with the requirements necessary for entry-level cyber jobs,” Read said. “Long term, CVCSA wants to provide curated learning pathways and a mentoring program to guide cybersecurity students to achieve their goals.”
COVA CCI, run by Old Dominion University, is one of four nodes in the state-funded Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI). The other nodes are Northern Virginia (George Mason University), Central Virginia (Virginia Commonwealth University), and Southwestern Virginia (Virginia Tech). Visit the COVA CCI website – www.covacci.org – to learn more about this organization.
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