POSTED ON: Friday, May 6, 2022 11:14 a.m. by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jordyn Diomede
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – John_Pwn_Jones, US Naval Academy (USNA) Midshipmen of the USNA Cybersecurity Team, won the 4th Annual NetWars Academy Services Cup Championship SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security (SANS ) at the SANS Baltimore Spring 2022 event held March 17-18.
SANS is an organization that provides cybersecurity-focused training across the full spectrum of the cybersecurity field. The event is specifically designed to challenge cadets and midshipmen from the various US service academies including US Coast Guard Academy, US Air Force Academy, US Military Academy and USNA. Of the 10 contenders at the event, five competed specifically in NetWars, while the other five competed in the general competition.
As a network defense competition, the team faced more more than 50 questsions during the two-day NetWars event. The question and answer challenges they faced involved the need for contestants to engage in research or use their individual skills in order to find the answers.
“I was really proud of their performance because NetWars is something SANS has been offering for many years,” said Dane Brown, USNA Cybersecurity Team Coach and Professor in the Department of Cybersecurity. “None of these students had done that before, so it was completely new ground for them. They competed really well.”
According to Brown, the team trailed after the first day of competition with the Coast Guard leading for the majority of it.
“At some point we all heard the Coast Guard cadets excitedly jumping out of their chairs and thought it was over for us,” Mid said.Seaman 2nd Class (Junior) Jack Metcalf. “The frenzy that then engulfed us is one I will remember for a long time, as we were convinced we had just lost unless we managed to score a few more points. This kind of nerve-wracking intensity has never happened in any of the online competitions we’ve entered in the past two years.
Out of a possible 999 points, John_Pwn_Jones finished the competition with a total of 913 points, beating the Coast Guard Academy by just seven points.
“The best part of the event was how the teams came together and invested in the problem-solving process,” Metcalf said. “The culture of both teams was one of excitement to learn, and winning was not at the forefront of our minds until we took on the challenge. We told ourselves beforehand that our main objective was to be patient with each other and never get mad at someone for not knowing something, and the results will follow.
Metcalf said that during the competition the team had to keep their spirits up and not lose faith in their ability to recover from the deficit they were in.
“In cyber challenges like this, it’s often very easy to get stuck on a tough problem and preemptively throw in the towel,” he said. “But everyone in both teams held on until the end, with both teams resolving many key last-minute issues by working together and gelling as a unit.”
Additionally, he appreciated the opportunity to compete in an in-person format.
“It was fun to be able to watch and see our competition, and to have a tangible group of people that we’re trying to beat,” he said.
As the team’s coach, Brown finds it rewarding to see the development of midshipmen and what they will do for our Navy in the future. After the many competitions he’s been in throughout his career in cybersecurity, he thinks you can still get something out of it.
“That’s what I love about this area,” he says. “If you have a growth mindset, there’s always something new to learn or a new technique or tools that are available for you to continue to refine.”
The event summarized the essential aspects of the cybersecurity field.
“It was a direct application of the principles we had learned the previous week in our classes,” Metcalf said. “It felt super relevant to what we could do in the field, both in the military and beyond, and we were so grateful to have had that experience.”
Looking forward to upcoming competitions for the team, Brown believes this particular win at NetWars is one more feather in the team’s hat.
You can follow the USNA Cybersecurity Program on Instagram @usna_cyber_center. For more information about the Naval Academy, please visit www.usna.edu or our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USNavalAcademy.
Category: Academics, Aspirant