In response to the state’s In-Demand Jobs Week initiative, Ohio University Chillicothe hosted a Capture the Flag (CTF) event for area high school and college students on May 8, 2018. The event, organized by the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee (OC3), was a partnership of more than 100 public, private, military, and educational organizations led by the Ohio National Guard and initiated by Gov. John Kasich’s office. Dr. John Hoag, Associate Professor of Information & Telecommunication Systems at the Athens campus, helped organize the event for the University.
In response to the lack of personnel trained in cybersecurity, the goal of CTF is to educate and interest high school students in the subject and to better equip college students learning the techniques of the field.
Mark Bell, Cyber Security Outreach Coordinator at the Adjutant General’s Department of Ohio, shared, “The greatest challenge we face is that we don’t have enough trained cybersecurity professionals to fill all the vacant positions across the state – current and projected. In turn, there isn’t going to be adequate cybersecurity in organizations that need to secure and defend networks, information, data, etc.”
CTF is a cyber exercise that provides participants with real-world situations to help better prepare them for their careers. It also aligns with the National Institute of Standards and Technology principles.
CTF is a fun learning tool developed by carving out core servers and network infrastructure from Alphaville, a virtual cyber city. Participants traverse through challenges in Alphaville to find flags and input them into the scoring system. They use penetration testing and forensic skills to gather clues and collect evidence.
Sonja Goulet, Cyber Range Operations Manager at Merit Network’s Michigan Cyber Range Hub, remarked, “CTF is a great learning environment for all those interested in honing their cybersecurity skills, no matter which technical skill level they already possess."
A self-paced exercise, CTF is a means to assess individual skills across a broad range of systems and challenges. Each thread is built around a specific security skill set, such as web, SQL, and password security. Recovering artifacts gets harder as the player progresses along the thread, providing an active, adaptable challenge.
Nicole McCombs, 4thyear student at Tiffin University, commented, “I really like Capture the Flag. There is a city aspect to the simulation so you can hack into a school network and change grades, go into the City Hall and obtain records, and turn off the power grid for the town – it’s really cool! It’s a lot of fun, even for those who don’t know a lot about cybersecurity.”
As the largest CTF event thus far in the state, 34 students from Vinton and Chillicothe High Schools, Pickaway-Ross Career & Technology Center, Buckeye-Hills Career Center, Hocking College, and Tiffin University participated in the event. Ryan Burgess, Director of Workforce Transformation at the Governor’s Office, also came by the campus to check out the event and see how the exercise was impacting the students.
Due to the increased need of cybersecurity personnel, OC3 plans to build cyber ranges across the state to help provide a secure cybersecurity test and training environment for the current and future cybersecurity workforce. The ranges will be available for National Guard, state, and local personnel, faculty and students in education, and private sector entities. The first Cyber Range is planned to open on May 29, 2018 at the University of Cincinnati.
Major General Mark E. Bartman, The Adjutant General, Ohio National Guard, commented, “The main issue with cybersecurity is that a lot of employers in the industry want to know how much experience you have in a particular field. That is what effects high school students and college graduates the most as they typically don’t have a lot of experience working in specific networks. And that is the reason why we have started the cyber range – so we can help people build the right portfolios that will allow them to walk into any large company and land a job.”
“Finding a job is not the problem,” remarked Major General Bartman. “Nationally, there are between 300,000 and 400,000 job vacancies in cybersecurity and by 2023 it is projected that there will be over a million job opportunities. So, if you are interested in this field, you are in the right field for today.”
undefinedParticipants listen intently to Mark Bell, Cyber Security Outreach Coordinator at the Adjutant General’s Department of Ohio, as he prepares them for Capture the Flag at Ohio University Chillicothe
undefinedMark Bell, Cyber Security Outreach Coordinator at the Adjutant General’s Department of Ohio, discusses the state’s plans for cyber ranges
undefinedStudents from Hocking College work through the Capture the Flag challenges in the Ohio University Chillicothe computer lab
undefinedStudents from Chillicothe High School work through challenges during Capture the Flag at Ohio University Chillicothe
undefinedRyan Burgess, Director of Workforce Transformation at the Governor’s Office, talks with students during the Capture the Flag exercise