Students from various US military academies will tackle the US National Security Agency in a friendly competition hosted by Lockheed Martin to simulate real-life hacking scenarios that affect government or private networks.
The Cyber Defense Exercise (CDX) enables students to train under simulated attack conditions to build experience and prepare for actual scenarios. Saying that practice is vital for training qualified cyber-defense teams, Bill Stackpole, an associate professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology believes that CDX is the perfect playground for such activities.
“If you were a boxer, and you never stepped into the ring before and Mohamed Ali or Mike Tyson gave you a couple of pops, it would be difficult for you to defend yourself had you never had any practice,” said Stackpole. “These competitions give you practice on the receiving end.â€
During the competition, the NSA will take on the role of an attacker and try to breach the targeted networks in an attempt to steal data, cripple their capabilities, and cause service degradations. While the exercise is meant to simulate real conditions, Stackpole believes the timespan is not really relevant as attackers usually do a lot of footprinting before attacking a network.
With realism being less important, security expert Bruce Schneier believes the CDX is a great opportunity for students to learn and for security companies to exchange knowledge with aspiring cyber-security experts.
“The goal isn’t be realistic; the goal is to be an exercise,” said Schneier. “I’m glad they’re doing it. This is how we learn stuff. The fact that they’re talking to each other is great.”
It remains to be seen whether students from West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy will be able to fend off attacks from NSAâ€™s experts.