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FHS students compete in cyber security competition

By: Rachel Zirin, Senior Reporter
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Folsom High School’s computer science academic team recently competed for the second year in the CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition and placed platinum and gold.

Coach and advisor Jean Cavanaugh said the competition consists of schools all over the country. Each school is allowed up to five teams with a total of five members each. Cavanaugh said it’s impressive to have five teams because some schools only have one.

Of Folsom’s five teams, two were all female, one was all male and two were co-ed. The competition the teams recently competed in was rounds one and two, which lasted not a minute more than six hours.

“CyberPatriots send us a link to two operating system images – a Windows image and a Linux image,” she said. “They have certain ‘bugs’ in them. Then they send a document that introduced the students to their ‘company.’ It explains a little about the company, who should have administrative rights and who the employees are. The students’ task for the competition is to figure out where all the bugs are, fix them, change passwords when necessary, and secure the image from any ‘open doors.’”

In the second round, the students are given a written test of Cisco Networking questions and challenges, Cavanaugh said.

Based off of a percentage of total points for each team, Cavanaugh’s group placed with three platinum level and two gold level scores.

“We don’t ‘get anything.’ It just allows us to move onto the next level,” she said. “We will compete on Jan. 20. If they don’t make a certain point percentage, we are finished for the year.”

Yu-Hsi (Ellie) Cheng, academic team president, is on one of the all-female teams which placed in the platinum level, and she said she is very proud to have all the teams come this far.

“I’m so proud. Everyone around me is learning a lot and doing so well,” Cheng said. “I’m really looking forward to putting what I have learned to good use and improve in the next competition. I want to do my best and go for it.”

Cheng said she was originally interested in the academic team because she thought cyber security was interesting and would be a good skill to have.

Tommy Nguyen, who placed in the gold level, said he is happy with how well his team did.

“We’re pretty happy with our spot. Our team did really well, so we are satisfied,” he said. “I originally joined the group because I was in Cavanaugh’s class, and what she was talking about interested me. It benefits me because I have learned more about technology. Every time I go to the club, I learn different things with the other students.”

Nguyen said he is looking forward to how hard the next challenge will be.

“Every round it gets harder, so we’re going to study a lot to make sure we are prepared,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to experiencing new challenges.”

Cavanaugh said majoring in cyber security in college is big right now, and she wanted to show the students that they don’t have to work for Apple and Google, but for the FBI and other organizations who work with cyber security.

“The bottom line is we’re trying to teach them to be secure in all their social media accounts, and really trying to teach them to secure passwords because of all the breaches,” Cavanaugh said. “There are a lot of opportunities for cyber security majors, so it’s fun to see them so interested.”