Cybersecurity Club competes in CyberPatriot competition
The Walnut Cybersecurity Club competed in the first round of the CyberPatriot competition from Friday, Nov. 13 to Sunday, Nov. 15 through Zoom.
The club is divided into three teams, each participating in both the Network Security Challenge and the Cisco Networking Challenge. Over a six-hour period, the Network Security Challenge tasked members with finding and fixing vulnerabilities—a blanket term for security problems—within the Windows and Linux operating systems. As part of the Cisco Challenge, teams had to take an online quiz and participate in a virtual networking challenge, which involved basic cybersecurity concepts like subnetting and IP addressing.
“I really liked the aspect of how [the challenge] is built like you’re fixing a machine,” club member freshman Lucas He said. “You’re learning a lot from it, that’s [the] number one [takeaway].”
Teams are awarded points with each vulnerability they fix, but they can also lose points if they worsen the problem. All participants in the competition have access to a leaderboard, where they can see their live national rankings compared to other teams.
“You don’t always know if you’re fixing the actual vulnerability, so I get excited [when I gain points] because I know what I’ve done has paid off,” President junior Zhenkai Weng said. “So whenever you hear that ringing sound and sees that [the scoring engine] granted you points, it gives you a dopamine rush.”
The CyberPatriot competition starts with three rounds, in which all teams can participate, no matter their performance in each. However, after these rounds, teams are separated into tiers. Platinum, the top tier, consists of teams who placed in the top 30 percent of the first three rounds. The top 25 percent have the option to advance to Semifinals, and the top 12 teams will go on to compete at Nationals.
“You’re seeing [your score] go up and down in the leaderboard, so I really like the competing aspect,” He said. “I think we can [advance to Platinum tier] because the Linux part of my team is really good. I don’t expect to do really well, but I am going to try my best.”
Currently, the three teams from Walnut High School are ranked 12th, 94th and 1,413th out of the 4,000 teams nationally. They achieved these rankings by undergoing intensive training sessions that began in October.
“Before the competition, we had biweekly meetings to cover the essentials, like the basic concepts of each category,” Weng said. “We used practice images and had mock exams to train the new members. Then, [we would] let them try it out before the competition round.”
After finishing round one of their competition, the teams of the Walnut Cybersecurity Club are preparing for rounds two and three, scheduled to take place in December 2020 and January 2021 of next year, respectively.
“Cybersecurity really requires patience. It basically allowed me to look at a problem and not give up as easily,” Weng said. “I think we just need to remember that the gateway to success [in competitions] are hidden in these small details.”
By Cathy Li, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Zhenkai Weng