PA National Guard hosts cyber Wi-Fi hacking event at Penn State

Jessica Hallman
November 18, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On Oct. 30, the Pennsylvania National Guard’s Army/Air Joint Cyber Team held a Cyber Wi-Fighter Hacking Challenge at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology. The three-hour event introduced students to STEM occupations in the National Guard and promoted military and civilian partnerships to advance Pennsylvania’s overall cybersecurity position.

Eight teams composed of 36 Penn State students competed against each other to hack into a wireless access point and laterally move through the exercise network to exploit an industrial control system — a toy foam missile launcher.

“I’ve always been interested in penetration testing, but I didn’t really have any experience,” said Jonah Albert, freshman in cybersecurity analytics and operations, and a member of the winning team. “Through this exercise I learned a little more about pen testing and how in-depth it can go.”

Captain Sean Smith, who graduated from the College of IST in 2009, was among members of the Pennsylvania National Guard who brought the challenge to Penn State.

“The Cyber Wi-Fighter Challenge is rapidly becoming a key training and recruiting asset for the Pennsylvania National Guard,” said Smith. “The hardware, software and scenario for this exercise were custom developed in-house by our cyber soldiers to simulate a corporate (information technology/operational technology) network environment.”

He added, “We sought to fill key gaps found in today’s cyber-training by allowing students to bring their own tools into the exercise and be completely hands-on with very few ‘game-ism’ limitations.”

Alec Sudol, freshman in computer science and a member of the winning team, said they were appreciative of the opportunity to participate in the experience.

“Without hands-on opportunities, students won’t understand how to apply what they learn in a classroom to anything outside of a perfect lab environment,” said Sudol. “Things fail in real life and [students] need to be ready for that.”

In addition to Albert and Sudol, other members of the winning team included Zach Malinich, sophomore, cybersecurity analytics and operations; Kareem Jelks, junior, cybersecurity analytics and operations; and Cole Daubenspeck, junior, cybersecurity analytics and operations.

Malinach concluded, “Events like this are important because they give students insight into what they might face in the real world and what types of things they can look forward to.”

Last Updated January 22, 2020