Cybersecurity event offers new competition for students, others

The University of Oregon’s annual Cyber Resilience Summit will bring in expertise from federal investigators as well as leaders from the private sector to discuss cyberthreats and share skills to combat them.

The one-day online summit, Oct. 14, will be preceded by a new UO-hosted statewide cyber competition, the Oregon Cyber Cup Challenge. The competition is open to university, community college and high school students, as well as professionals throughout Oregon. Team registration is now open and will close Sept. 12.

The goal of the twin events is to bring together a variety of Oregonians who are interested or work in cybersecurity to learn and train together, said UO Chief Information Security Officer Leo Howell.

“Cyberthreats represent some of the most significant challenges to national security, our economic systems and our basic way of life,” he said. “Most large institutions, including in higher education, face cyber security challenges on a near-daily basis. So, we must work together to protect ourselves.”

Howell added that the Cyber Cup Challenge is designed to help engage younger generations of Oregonians in the goals and craft of cybersecurity and resilience.

The summit event will feature Vint Cerf, a vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google, who is known as one of the “fathers of the Internet”; and Nitin Natarajan, deputy director for the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The other keynote speakers are both leaders of private sector cybersecurity companies: Kevin Mandia, CEO of FireEye, and Tim Morgan, the founder and chief technology officer of DeepSurface Security.

The summit is free for employees of the UO and all Oregon students, university, community college and high school. The general public – including cybersecurity, IT and emergency response professionals – can also attend for a $15 fee. Preregistration is recommended.

As for the Cyber Cup Challenge, the competition will begin with a jamboree round on Sept. 20-22 when three-member teams compete in three separate leagues: high school, college and professional.

The championship event on Oct. 13 will then mix up the winning teams, so that each team will have one contestant from each league to allow for additional networking and skill-sharing.

Avi Lance and Chance Curran, two UO students who are members of the Cybersecurity Club, will take part in this year’s cup competition.

Cybersecurity competitions involve participants trying to solve a series of different conundrums or puzzles, Curran said, using their coding and other web-based skills.

“It’s a collaborative experience,” Curran said. “The team element is really valuable, because, for example, if you have someone who is very specialized in web exploitation and someone else who is experienced with reverse engineering or forensics, you can lean on each other’s skill sets in these challenges and learn from each other.”

A big part of cybersecurity is understanding how to emulate hackers and how they attack systems, Curran added, to learn how to counter them.

Lance said one of the interesting and unusual aspects of the Cyber Cup is the mixing of teams between high school, college and professional competitors.

“I’ve met some high school students who are already at an insane level,” he said. “I think working with people at different levels and with different experiences is going to be really interesting.”

The UO is co-hosting the event with the Technology Association of Oregon, in partnership with regional staff from DHS, the FBI and the Oregon TITAN Fusion Center, as part of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

By Saul Hubbard, University Communications