By Elizabeth Stuart
Dec. 13, 2009
CLEARFIELD -- Stern-faced and imposing in an Air Force Junior ROTC
uniform, 17-year-old Jorge Lerma stares down his adversary.
The laptop in front of him, flashing a menacing "error" message, he
doesn't even flinch.
"I've seen a lot of errors, but I've never seen anything like this,"
says Lerma, shaking his head ominously. "I'm going to need some backup."
Using a simulation called Cyber Patriot II, he and five other ROTC
students from Clearfield High School are learning to fight a different
kind of military battle. Rather than securing borders with guns, Lerma
and his friends secure computer network systems with firewalls and
"The No. 1 concern in the world today is cyberterrorism," said Maj. Kit
Workman, Utah president of the Air Force Association. "Our lives depend
on computers. The government is interested in training up a generation
that knows how to protect the country on a virtual level."
Via hacks and bits of malicious computer code, criminals can disrupt,
disable and glean confidential information from hospitals, banks and 911
services. One man a world away can remotely control a network of
computers, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The
government spends billions of dollars annually repairing computer
systems that have fallen victim to cyberterrorism.
During a recent competition, the Clearfield boys, who call themselves
the Furious Falcon Five, raced to secure three computer systems from
viruses, spyware and remote intruders. The point of the game? To do it
faster than 21 other teams seated in front of computers across the
country. Previously, the team had debugged its way to become one of the
top eight hacker-blocking teams in the world, beating out more than 300
competitors. In February, they are headed to Florida for the finals,
where they will go head to head against live hackers.
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