Christopher Ottesen raced to decrypt inane codes squirming their way
onto his computer in Washington D.C. earlier this month.
Every so often, his attention turned to a different threat: A pesky
hacker trained to pry his way into an unsuspecting computer interfaces,
snatch precious data and leave undetected.
Christopher’s high school homework would wait.
Repelling cyber threats and highly-trained computer warriors has become
habit for the 15-year-old and a team of Civil Air Patrol cadets from the
The team — known as the “Wolf Pack” — claimed first place this month in
CyberPatriot IV, a nationwide cyber defense competition pitting
thousands of high school students against highly trained computer
The win earned each of the cadets — Ottesen and teammates Carlin Idle,
Kyal Lanum, Chris Vasquez, Stephen Parish and John Parish — $2,000
scholarships from Northrop Grumman Corp., which specializes in cyber
It might also jumpstart their careers as cyber cops.
Often fought in ethereal reaches of the Internet and faraway computer
server rooms, cyber security ranks among the Defense Department’s top
At a three-day cyber symposium at the Broadmoor in February, Gen.
William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force
Base, said criminal hackers pose a growing threat to defense systems.
“We’ve got a lot more questions than we’ve got answers,” he said.
That’s where the competition, pitting teenagers against a dream team of
defense contractors, comes in.
“You can’t pick up the newspaper or watch the TV without seeing a cyber
attack of some sort,” said Bill Blatchley, who coached the Wolf Pack.
“And so we need these individuals to be able to start securing our own
corporate and individual and government networks, and defend them
against the bad guys that are everywhere.”
A year ago, most of these cadets only knew how to operate Facebook,
They learned computer security tricks from Blatchley throughout the
fall. In late October, the cadets downloaded the first computer program
to decode and secure.
More than 600 military-related youth programs entered the competition in
one division. Another roughly 400 high school teams tried their hand in
After several rounds, the number of teams in each division dropped to
The final test came in Washington D.C., where the Wolf Pack sat at
computers and fought off hackers.
“You just got to try and keep yourself focused and keep trying to find
vulnerabilities,” Christopher said. “Even when you think you’re done,
you’re probably not.”