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NEWS | Oct. 15, 2015

Randolph High School students enter online cybersecurity competition

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

Students at Randolph High School will be putting their computer skills to the test against schools from across the U.S. and Canada in an online cybersecurity competition that begins in November.

The team of six Randolph High School students are preparing for the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. CyberPatriot is an online competition of several rounds in which high school and middle school teams compete for a chance to go to the national finals in Baltimore in April. The competition is put on by the Air Force Association.

RHS team members are Will Watkins, Austin Hahn, Ian Murawski, Zack Nelson, Joshua Huffman and Sabrina Williams.

First round of the CyberPatriot competition is Nov. 13-15.

Ana Arrieta, Randolph High School business and technology teacher and CyberPatriot team coach, said the teams in the competition must come up with a plan to defend a virtual computer network with security breaches from a cyber attack, including against hackers, spyware, adware, worms and viruses. The teams must solve the security problems with the network in a six-hour period.

“Teams are awarded points based on how quickly they fix the cybersecurity problems within the computer network,” Arrieta said.

Watkins, RHS senior, said the students are given information on the problems with the computer network and based on that information come up with a plan to fix it.

“Our job is to make sure the computer is free of anything that could be used to cause harm to the computer,” Watkins said.

Watkins has been a CyberPatriot team member since his freshman year at Randolph, when he and a friend went to the meeting that started the CyberPatriot competition program at the school.

“We thought it was a great idea and we were hooked,” Watkins said. “I’ve learned a quite few things from this competition. I’ve used CyberPatriot as a learning tool. I’ve learned how to set up servers and manage firewalls, as well as how to better run anti-virus software and how to better secure a computer.”

Watkins said his goal is for the Randolph team to make it through the first two rounds of the competition and qualify for the state round in January. Schools that make it out of state advance to the regional round in February. The 12 top high schools in the regional round qualify for the national finals.

“We have a good team of people who were here last year,” Watkins said. “I’m hoping with the know-how of the veterans on the team and the fresh ideas and fresh thinking of the new team members, we can make it to state and nationals.”

Huffman, RHS senior,  is a first year member of the CyberPatriot team. Huffman said he has studied computer programming and that being on the team is allowing him to expand his knowledge of computers, especially in the field of cybersecurity.

“It’s good to have a little bit of experience in both fields,” Huffman said.

Retired Air Force master sergeant Douglas Nelson is the team’s technical mentor and helps the team with technical aspects of the competition.

Arrieta said CyberPatriot is part of the National Youth Cyber Education Program, which was set up to get more high school and middle school students interested in the field of cybersecurity.

“Right now in the field of cybersecurity there are not enough people working in it,” Arrieta said. “To me this is one of the most important career fields they can get interested in. It is one of those fields that is important for our nation’s security.”

The team will be doing a practice round for the competition. The practice round started Tuesday and runs through Oct. 27.