Students participate in cyber defense competition

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Clovis High School’s CyberPatriot team is made up of Cadet Staff Sgt. Jeremy Scales, Cadet Staff Sgt. Justin Jaquez, Cadet Airmen 1st Class Alex Smith, Airmen 1st Class David Tshudy, Cadet Tech Sgt. Paelan Dober and Cadet Capt. Daniel Gearhart.

Liliana Castillo

Six Clovis High School Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps students have added words like ‘ping’ and ‘malware’ to their vocabulary over the last two weeks.

The group, led by Aerospace Science Instructor Master Sgt. Kim Justice, is learning to defend a computer for a cyber defense competition called CyberPatriot. The team calls itself CyberCatz.

“The Air Force Association wants folks, kids, understanding how that infrastructure works,” Justice said. “Cyber is where it’s going.”

The CHS group has been working through two practice rounds in which they are given a program that simulates a desktop and the students are expected to find 10 vulnerabilities.

Cadet Capt. Daniel Gearhart said vulnerabilities can be anything such as a virus or a worm.

“Based on the information we’re given, we fend off attacks,” Gearhart said.

The program is free for the CHS JRTOC because the Air Force Assocation has covered their costs. The first round of the official competition begins Oct. 23 and the CHS team will be one of 500 participating nationwide.

Members of the group had little knowledge about cyber security before embarking on the project.

“We had to start from scratch. We downloaded activities and modules but it wasn’t in our vocabulary,” Justice said.

Gearhart said the process is like trying to diagnose a sick patient.

“It’s like going to a math class and not knowing math. You learn,” he said.

Cadet Staff Sgt. Jeremy Scales said the group will do research for the competition.

“We’ll learn from our mistakes,” he said. “We need to practice.”

Justice said the project is another way to expand what students learn.

“We are always looking for more ways to advance education for kids,” she said. “We are helping kids determine what they could possibly do in the future.”

Justice said the group did better each time they got together and worked on the project.

“We’ll research and plan our actions,” Justice said.