In a first for Mount Everett, students to compete in cybersecurity championship

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SHEFFIELD — A local leader in high-tech scholastic competition, Mount Everett Regional School looks to contend for its first-ever cybersecurity championship starting this weekend.

Six upperclassmen from the Southern Berkshire middle/high school on Friday will hunker down for several hours in front of their school computers for the opening round of CyberPatriot X.

Mount Everett is debuting in the decadelong national competition that puts nearly 5,600 teams of high-school and middle-school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company, according to the organizers' website.

In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding problems within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services in a six-hour period.

"You score points by fixing cybersecurity vulnerabilities," said junior Shoji Rinaldi.

"It's rudimentary cybersecurity; you're basically an IT guy," added senior Alex Murray.

Rounding out the team are seniors Sean Shalaby, Carl Furcht, Finn Chebatoris and junior Connor Blodgett.

The online competition that began as an Air Force ROTC event in 2009, requires the student teams to download the images that vary in complexity that need to be fixed. The more secure the image, the more points scored, but if made less secure, a team loses points.

Following a second round in December and the state competition in January, the top three teams in each state at each tier level (platinum, gold and silver) advance to regional competition. In addition, the teams with the top 36 highest scores nationwide at the state level that failed to qualify at their tier level make it to the finals as wild-card entrants. The all-expenses-paid trip to Baltimore for the championship is April 15 to 19.

Despite being rookie competitors, the Mount Everett team has the same confidence as the school's highly successful robotics team that reached the FIRST Tech Challenge world championships in St. Louis two years ago.

A robotics veteran, Chebatoris finds, based on several practice rounds, CyberPatriot more forgiving than controlling the robots to score points.

"There's more a margin of error than robotics. If you get the computer to turn on, you're good to go," he said.

Robotics also requires teams, unless hosting a match, to travel across the state and region; the only road trip for CyberPatriot is Baltimore for the national title.

"It's nice to do [CyberPatriot] in school and not load up a van with the robots at five in the morning," noted Mount Everett technology teacher Chris Thompson.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com.


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