More than 400 teams are already registered for the 2014-2015 season of CyberPatriot, a competition that began in 2009 to motivate students to consider careers in cyber security and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.

The current season, known as CyberPatriot VII, boasts participation from 40 states as well as Puerto Rico, Canada, and U.S. Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Germany. Each team consists of a coach and two to six students from the same middle school, high school, or other approved educational organization. The competition is structured as a tournament where the highest scoring teams advance until the top 28 teams are identified. The top teams then receive all-expenses-paid trips to the national finals in Washington, D.C., in March.

Here’s how it works, according to organizers. Prior to each round, teams download virtual image representations of ope​​​rating systems with known flaws or cyber security vulnerabilities. The goal is to find and fix these flaws while keeping certain computer functions, such as email, working. A central CyberPatriot Competition System scores teams’ progress toward the successful completion of each image.

At the national finals, things change a bit. Teams compete face-to-face on a business scenario in which they are newly hired IT professionals managing the network of a small company. Students are tested on their ability to find and fix network vulnerabilities, maintain critical services, and defend the network from professional aggressor​ team attacks.​ In the past, the event has also included digital forensics, networking, and digital crime scene challenges.​​

CyberPatriot is run by The Air Force Association,  a non-profit military and aerospace education and advocacy group. More information is available on the competition’s official website: AFA CyberPatriot

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