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KU to Host Cyber Defense Competition

Friday, April 29, 2016

LAWRENCE — A cybersecurity competition hosted this weekend at the University of Kansas School of Engineering will pit Jayhawk engineering students and soldiers from the First Infantry Division at Fort Riley against a group of professional hackers. The competition is set for April 30 and May 1 at Eaton Hall.

The competition will consist of three teams. One team will be only First Infantry Division soldiers. The other two will be a mix of soldiers and students from KU’s cyberdefense team, the JayHackers. Each team will be given virtual systems to fortify and maintain before professional hackers attempt to break into them.

On day one of the competition, soldiers and students will have lectures and briefings in the morning and will spend the afternoon checking their systems and making them secure as possible. A group of professional hackers will arrive May 1 to try to break into the systems.

“We give the teams systems with vulnerabilities. They may contain Trojan horses or backdoor accounts,” said Bo Luo, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and adviser to the Jayhacker team. “However, we don’t give the professional hackers any prior knowledge of the systems, so they will have to scan the systems to find vulnerabilities to penetrate.”

The JayHackers team is a group of students interested in cybersecurity. It allows students to actively apply their skills outside of the classroom in national competitions. In October 2014, the team placed first in the inaugural Central Area Networking and Security Workshop at KU.

“The club has given me a chance to network with professionals in K.C., help teach other students and taught me how to be an effective leader,” said JayHacker team captain Christopher Seasholtz, a master’s student in computer engineering.

This competition is an outreach event as part of a $4.7 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation to KU to educate cyberdefense experts dedicated to public service.

The initiative, called “CyberCorps: New Scholarship for Service Program at the University of Kansas — Jayhawk SFS,” supports dozens of undergraduate, master's and doctoral students, who following graduation commit to work at government cybersecurity jobs safeguarding critical infrastructure. 

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