April 12, 2006
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Midshipmen at the Naval Academy took part in a
simulated battle Tuesday, defending their computer systems against an
attack by hackers from the National Security Agency in Fort Meade.
The Mids were guarding their network against intrusions by NSA
experts, who were sniffing around on servers, sneaking into systems
and adding fake users, complete with passwords, that could allow
unauthorized access. The intruders even induced the dreaded blue
screen of death on a Navy machine.
This combat was part of the sixth annual Cyber Defense Exercise, in
which all the nation's service academies compete to see who can best
defend an information network from the NSA team. Navy won last year's
This year's competitors, besides Navy, are the U.S. Military Academy
in West Point, N.Y., the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs,
Colo., the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., the U.S.
Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., and the U.S. Air Force
Institute of Technology in Ohio.
"It's a really practical application of what we learn in class," said
Alison Teoh, 20, a junior and computer science major who is running
the administrative side of the competition for Navy. "It's definitely
dramatic as well, staying up four days straight and being slammed with
attacks all the time by NSA."
About a dozen Mids worked in a room with more than 20 computers
Tuesday, and some said they planned to work through the night during
the competition, sleeping only four or five hours a day during the
four-day event, The (Baltimore) Sun.
The Midshipmen were optimistic about the competition, pointing out
that the servers of other military academies had been disabled longer
Participants will be graded on how they respond to the events, how
effectively they defend and recover from the efforts of the NSA
hackers' efforts to disable their systems.
Jonathan Kindel, 22, a senior majoring in information technology and
national security affairs, said his major combined technical study
with the increasing importance of defense systems.
"I know enough now to manage skills as a program manager, but there's
also a political science twist to all of it," he said. "You get to
learn the impact of this stuff on an international playground."
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