1 April 2012
Local teens tops in computer warfare competition
By Jakob Rodgers
Colorado Springs Gazette


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 Colorado Springs.

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 hackers.

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 defense systems.

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 concerns.

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, Blatchley said.
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 another division.

After several rounds, the number of teams in each division dropped to 12.

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.�

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