Service Academies Battle in Cyberspace

As attention continues to grow regarding the variety of threats from cyberspace, the U.S. government and private industry are on the hunt for the next generation of cyber professionals. The five service academies are currently working to build up the next generation of military officers as skilled cyber professionals by adding cybersecurity courses to the curriculum and encouraging students to participate in cyber war games.

This week, the five academies are working to defend their computer systems from cyber attack, in a mock war game known as Cyber Defense Exercise, according to  While the actual academies’ networks are not under threat, several aspects of the exercise provide for a realistic training environment.

“The hardest part is figuring out what is real and what is not,” Midshipman 1st Class Christopher Wheeler, a Naval Academy team co-captain, said. “We definitely have had one documented attack.”

In the Cyber Defense Exercise, now in its 10th year, students at the academies are required to build a computer system within set limits provided by the National Security Agency (NSA). Students participating in the exercise are subjected to several ‘real-world’ considerations, such as a limited budget which influences the amount of gateways, filters and encryption programs the students are able to ‘buy.’

“The competition is designed to make you think of the most efficient system. I would love to put a firewall on every computer, but the resources just aren’t there,” said Midshipman 1st Class Justin Monroe, the Naval Academy’s co-captain.

A team from the NSA works to breach the systems set up by the students, who are only able to man the systems from 7 am to 10 pm. The NSA can work around the clock and teams are responsible even when they are not able to actively monitor their networks.

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