USNA Cyber Security Team Wins SANS NetWars Service Academy Cup Championship
POSTED ON: Friday, May 6, 2022 11:14 AM by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jordyn Diomede
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) midshipmen on the USNA Cyber Security Team, John_Pwn_Jones, won the 4th Annual SysAdmin, Audit, Network, Security (SANS) NetWars Academy Services Cup Championship during the SANS Baltimore Spring 2022 event held March 17-18.
SANS is an organization that provides cyber security-focused training across the spectrum of the cyber security field. The event is uniquely tailored to challenge cadets and midshipmen from the various U.S. service academies, to include the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Military Academy, and USNA. Out of the 10 midshipmen attending the event, five competed in NetWars specifically, while the other five competed in the general competition.
As a network defense competition, the team faced more than 50 questions over the course of the two-day NetWars event. The question and answer challenges they faced involved the need for competitors to engage in research or use their individual skill sets in order to find the answers.
“I was really proud of how they performed because NetWars is something SANS has been putting on for many years,” said Dane Brown, USNA Cyber Security Team coach and professor in the cyber security department. “None of these students have done one before, so it was completely new ground for them. They competed really well.”
According to Brown, the team was trailing following the first day of the competition with the Coast Guard in the lead for the majority of it.
“At one point, we all heard the Coast Guard cadets jump out of their chairs in excitement and thought it was over for us,” said Midshipman 2nd Class (junior) Jack Metcalf. “The frenzy that subsequently sent us into was one I’ll remember for a long time to come, as we were convinced that we had just lost unless we managed to score some more points. That type of nerve-wracking intensity never happened in the online competitions we’ve been a part of the past two years.”
Out of a possible 999 points, John_Pwn_Jones finished the competition with a total of 913 points, defeating the Coast Guard Academy by only seven points.
“The best part about the event was the way that the teams came together and invested themselves in the problem-solving process,” said Metcalf. “The culture of both teams was one of excitement to learn, and winning was not at the forefront of our minds going into the challenge. We told each other beforehand that our main goal was to be patient with one another and to never get mad at someone for not knowing something, and the results will follow.”
Metcalf said that over the course of the competition, the team had to keep their spirits up and not lose faith that they could recover from the deficit they found themselves in.
“In cyber challenges such as this one, it is often really easy to get stuck on a tough problem and throw in the towel preemptively,” he said. “But everyone on both teams stuck it out to the end, with both teams solving many key, last-minute questions by working together and gelling as a unit.”
Additionally, he appreciated the ability to compete in an in-person format.
“It was fun to be able to look over and see our competition, and have a tangible group of people that we are attempting to work towards beating,” he said.
As coach of the team, Brown finds it rewarding to see the development of the midshipmen and what they’re going to be doing for our Navy in the future. After the many competitions he’s participated in throughout his time in the cyber security field, he thinks you can always get something out of it.
“That’s what I love about this field,” he said. “If you have a growth mindset, there’s always something new to learn or a new technique or tools that are out there so you can keep sharpening yourself.”
The event encapsulated essential aspects of the cyber security realm.
“It was a direct application of the principles that we had learned the week prior during our classes,” said Metcalf. “It seemed super relevant to what we could be doing in the field in both the military and beyond, and we were super thankful to have had the experience.”
Looking forward to upcoming competitions for the team, Brown believes this particular win at NetWars is one more feather in the team’s cap.
You can follow the USNA cyber security 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, Midshipman