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Phishing for knowledge

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Phishing for knowledge

CVTC IT students participate in national cyber security competition

Image: Phishing for knowledge

Tim Barnet, 30, of Eau Claire, placed 432 of 6,200 people throughout the country to participate in a cyber security competition. He was one of 25 students in Josh Huhmann’s class who participated in the three-day competition.

Tim Barnet was on a mission.

He sat at his computer for 18 hours, on and off, from noon on a Friday until that Sunday evening, competing against others but mostly himself during the National Cyber League cyber security competition earlier this month.

Barnet, 30, of Eau Claire, was given the opportunity through his IT security fundamentals course at Chippewa Valley Technical College.

All his time and efforts earned Barnet the best in his class and placed 432 of 6,200 people throughout the country who participated. As number one in his class, he received prizes from WIN and IDEXX, a few of the program’s largest graduate employers.

The competition was virtual, and participants – college students – had a set timeframe to complete the story-problem-type challenges.

The challenges are based on critical cybersecurity workforce categories like password cracking, web app exploitation, log analysis and six others.

“There are a lot of real-world applications to these challenges,” Barnet said. “One, in particular, was accessing email logs – trying to figure out which email account got compromised and what was the error that caused the attack.”

Barnet struggled with that scenario because he hadn’t had much experience with email logs. Regardless, in the three days, he completed 78 scenarios correctly. He’s unsure how many scenarios were in the nine categories. Each category had numerous fields.

“It’s almost like a spelling bee,” Barnet said. “It’s at a national level. It’s something an organization threw together for education. And there might be one piece missing, and you have to figure it out.

“I would be sitting there staring at this one thing for two hours, and then finally everything clicked.”

Josh Huhmann, IT-Network Specialist program instructor, said he has offered the competition as an option to students in the College’s IT Club in the past. Last year he began including it in class.

“It gives a different kind of experience in cybersecurity,” Huhmann said. “The competition exposes students to real situations cybersecurity employees might encounter.”

He joked that not all 25 of his students enjoyed the experience, but he said it was still a useful one.

Barnet enjoyed it.

“I had a really good time with this,” he said. “I did all of the practice examples and I copied all of the documents that they had explaining how all of this works, and I watched all of the YouTube videos.”

After Barnet graduates from the IT-Network Specialist program, he expects to enter a system administrator or analyst position.

“I didn’t know I’d even have an interest in this,” he said. “Doing this competition gave me a different outlook on that, and now it’s really fun to me.”

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