The competition is fierce today, as teams from each of the five U.S. service academies battle the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense in the 13th annual Cyber Defense Exercise – also known as CDX.
Hosted by Lockheed Martin and run by NSA, this four-day long competition has become a critical portion of the five academies’ information-assurance curricula. The winner of this year’s challenge, which began April 16, will be announced April 19.
The U.S. Air Force Academy took home the prize last year, making the competition fierce against the U.S. Military Academy who previously won the competition six times.
This year’s U.S. Military Academy Class of 2013, commanded by Cadet Nolan Miles, has reason to be optimistic. “This has been a heroic effort getting the network together,” said Lt. Col. David Raymond, the U.S. Military Academy’s officer in charge. “I’ve been involved in the CDX for three years and this is the best CDX network I’ve seen and the best team dynamic I’ve seen.”
Beginning in 2001 as one of the requirements for the Military Academy’s information assurance curriculum, the competition challenges teams to create and manage an operational network of computers, designing network architecture and policy to prevent intrusions to their system by the enemy NSA/DOD attack team. To make the exercise even harder, competitors are limited to open-source, publicly available security tools.
At the outset of the competition, the NSA Red Force identifies weaknesses in the teams’ security architecture, launching a four-day long series of attacks on each team’s network system. Competitors can launch cyber-counter attacks, conduct cyberwarfare, and must attempt to maintain their system’s online service delivery.
At the end of the competition, teams are evaluated on their ability to maintain services, protect the privacy of the information on their system and respond to and prevent further attacks. The winning team is awarded the NSA Information Assurance Director’s Trophy.
Network security strategies employed by cadets in this challenge have provided important insight and lessons learned for security professionals in government, industry and academia alike.