Northern Virginia Community College Academic Team CMYK finished second place in the inaugural Black T-Shirt Cyber Forensics Challenge. The 2016 challenge opened January 1, winners were announced May 8, and more than 900 teams registered to compete as academic, corporate or individual teams.
The challenge consisted of nine forensic images and one packet capture file. Contestants received a scoring list and general guidelines to determine whether or not data exfiltration occurred. Any forensic tools were allowed for use to investigate and report findings.
“It was a great moment to associate a particularly guilty IP with an exfiltration protocol,” said Amy Thomas of the Alexandria campus. “Wireshark tutorials from my classes taught me to configure effective searches.”
Immanuel Silva of the Annandale campus said the challenge was a wonderful experience. “It simulated a refreshingly realistic environment for forensic analysis,” he said.
Silva also dropped passwords with ease. “I really enjoy the offensive side of cyber, so I had a great time cracking passwords and using unorthodox methods to establish a thorough forensic report of the incident. Amy would always roll her eyes when I’d say this, but there’s nothing better than grabbing a pair of creds.”
Thomas rolls eyes. “I was resting my eyes! We spent more than 200 hours on this,” she said. Thomas admitted to recovering the first password.
Prior to this challenge, both students had enrolled in Computer Forensics and had competed in the National Cyber League as a multi-school team. “That’s where I learned there’s an art to team play,” said Thomas. “I had to learn tools quickly, share relevant finds, and cultivate skills complementary to others.”
“The word ‘competition’ can be intimidating to many,” said Silva. “One of the most important things I’ve learned in my life is to stop worrying about whether you’re better or worse than somebody else; worry about being better than you. As long you continue to put energy into something, you’re only going to improve.”
The teammates agreed that continuous improvement, through competitions and academics, was crucial for success in the cyber field. Thomas graduates from NOVA this semester and is under consideration for positions in network engineering and security analysis. She’d like to complete her Master’s in Education in conjunction with the cyber security field. Silva will graduate from NOVA in the fall and will continue his B.A.S. in cyber at George Mason University, with the ultimate goal of a M.S. in Information Security Assurance at GMU.