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Cabrillo CIS Students Host Region-wide Cybersecurity Competition

Students competing in cyber competition at Cabrillo College

By Kate Rose
Special Contributor, Cabrillo College
Special to Santa Cruz Tech Beat

January 21, 2020 — Aptos, CA

(Photo above: Future Cyber Defenders gather at the Bay Area Regional Competition (BARC) 2020 “Bug Bounty” held on January 11, 2020, at Cabrillo College. Contributed.)

When he was 11 years old, Brad Bettencourt’s grandmother gave him a copy of MS DOS 6.0 For Dummies. He fell in love with the Command line from that point on, started his own web server and, when it came time to get his degree, he enrolled at Cabrillo College. Earlier this month, Brad led a team of Cabrillo Computer Information Systems (CIS) students to put on a “bug bounty” for middle, high school and community college student teams from all over the Bay Area Community College Consortium.

Bug bounties are typically held by companies who invite developers to find vulnerabilities (bugs) in their websites, systems, and platforms so they can be fixed before the general public becomes aware of them. Companies like Facebook, Square, Google, and Microsoft conduct bug bounties regularly to keep their systems secure. This year’s bug bounty was done in partnership with HackerOne.

Student teams qualified for the bounty based on their fall season competition scores through clubs like KringleCon, SquareCTF, National Cyber League, and picoCTF (Carnegie Mellon University’s cyber challenge). Students gathered from all over San Jose, Livermore, Dublin, and the East Bay. Competitors were given a developmental ATM machine built by Cabrillo College students. Their task was to find as many ways to exploit the machine as possible and report bugs to a group of judges from industry and community partners. The winners were evaluated based on technical reports and on-site interviews. Granada High School in Livermore took 1st (with an all-female team) and 3rd place, with Santa Teresa High in San Jose claiming 2nd in the competition.

“I’ve been involved with the Bay Area Cyber Competitions for some time now and, as a teacher, a big part of the success of the team is to be there and listen,” says Granada High’s coach, Manuel Baez, “I have a computer science degree, but only had one high-level class in cybersecurity myself, so I open my computer lab whenever they want to work, give them what I know, interpret difficult language, and they fill in the rest. I tell all of my students, even if you don’t go into cybersecurity, you will be a good consumer of electronics, and be more conscious about cyber attacks.”

During Saturday online training sessions leading up to the competition, Cabrillo College sends a preparation packet to teams and opens a communication server for whatever students want to discuss. They can ask questions and help teams 30 miles away. This process also simulates how professionals in the field collaborate and understand how to research an issue.

“The success of this competition demonstrates that our CIS students are ready to take on entry to mid-level technical roles,” says Irvin Lemus, Cabrillo’s CIS Department Chair, “Cabrillo is committed to investing in future cybersecurity professionals to meet the high demands of the field, so the competing students got hands-on experience with real world skills before they even left high school.”

“I’m really proud that we managed everything from the network to the database to the time management amongst the teams,” shared Brad, who lead the event, “We even had judges from Netflix, CloudBrigade, and some other local industry!”

As a direct result of students leading Bay Area Cyber Competitions, Cabrillo College is known throughout California, Missouri, and Florida, where other cybersecurity competitions take place.

The next regional CyberSecurity competition is planned for May 2020 and will focus on disaster recovery and business continuity. Teams will compete to respond to a simulated natural or manmade disaster, stabilize their assigned system and submit a press release about the disaster response.

To get a team started, schools can join the Bay Area Cyber Competitions program via https://www.baycyber.net/. Industry leaders are also invited to get involved by mentoring or judging the competition and meet our emerging cybersecurity talent! For more information, contact Irvin Lemus at irvin.lemus@cabrillo.edu.

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