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Press Release | April 6, 2006

National Security Agency, Academies Partner to Mold New Generation of Cyber-Defenders


The National Security Agency will assist budding military officers at the U.S. military service academies in the art and science of defending against cyber threats during the 6th Annual Cyber Defense Exercise, 10-14 April, 2006.

During CDX 2006, Maryland-based NSA network specialists and service members from the Army, Army Reserve, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force will challenge academy teams in their ability to defend a closed computer network they have designed, built and configured at their respective schools. A separate group of NSA specialists, also based in Maryland, will grade each team's ability to effectively maintain network services while detecting, responding to, and recovering from network security intrusions or compromises.

In preparation for the CDX, students from the United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, MD), United States Military Academy (West Point, NY), United States Air Force Academy (Colorado Springs, CO) United States Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point, NY), United States Coast Guard Academy (New London, CT), and U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology (Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, participating on a non-competitive basis) have been directed by NSA computer specialists and faculty in their efforts to incorporate and then defend a network of various commercially-available operating systems, applications and hardware platforms against the backdrop of a simulated military operation that provides an air of added realism.

"These future leaders will be called upon during their careers to effectively defend against an ever-present cyber threat given the military's increasing reliance on networks and information sharing," said NSA Information Assurance Director Richard C. Schaeffer. "This is NSA's opportunity to join with the leading institutions in an ideal, controlled learning environment to shape the future military's best and brightest," he added. "By investing in these cadets and midshipman now, when the stakes are simply bragging rights, we're increasing the chances of success among these same individuals when the stakes are much higher -- when they are entrusted with the nation's security."

This year's exercise will build on the success of past-years through the addition of a new wrinkle that promises to heighten the challenge for participating teams.

"In addition to the practical challenge each team must confront to successfully configure a defensible network, this year teams must also contend with the potential that software they have been issued may be pre-configured with known vulnerabilities," said Schaeffer. "In so doing, teams must not only remain vigilant against external intrusions to their networks, but also remain equally wary of threats from within, which can be just as debilitating to their operations," he added.

At the completion of the exercise, Schaeffer will award a coveted trophy to the team judged to be most successful, an honor earned by the Naval Academy last year.

"The trophy is a tangible reward for the winning team, but ultimately, experience is the win for every student and NSA, concluded Schaeffer. At the end of the day, we've created a new crop of information assurance torchbearers who have an understanding of the strategic imperative of safeguarding the nation's security."

Note: For more information, contact Ken White at NSA Public and Media Affairs at (301) 688-6524 for more information, or to arrange for attendance.