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Army cyber teams score most gold medals at Pentagon’s yearly hacking tournament

The event is intended to prepare cyberwarriors for digital fights against nations like China.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Feb 17, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 5:10 am CDT

The United States Military Academy at West Point took home the top prize earlier this month in Pittsburgh at CyberStakes, the Pentagon’s third annual top tier hacking competition.

Designed as a test of “our nation’s cyber training pipeline,” in the words of Frank DiGiovanni, the Defense Department’s director of force training, the competition is one prominent public-relations tool in an expanding global arms race centered in cyberspace.

In the face of an estimated 100,000 hackers in China’s People’s Liberation Army alone, U.S. Cyber Command is pushing to have 6,200 code warriors by the end of this year.

Each branch of the U.S. military sees cyberspace as a crucial theater of war, a fact exemplified by relatively high-profile exercises like CyberStakes.

The 214-year-old U.S. Army academy won 15 gold medals in a host of events, including reverse engineering, cyber forensics, cryptography, discovering and exploiting vulnerabilities in executable programs, and physical lock picking. Its gold medal count is nearly twice the number won by its closest competitor, the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. 

Pentagon officials and contractors said the competitors were getting better each year. It is impossible to verify that claim, but Dr. David Brumley, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who helps train the military’s cyber teams, offered a bit of meat.

“This year the participants were able to find not just vulnerabilities but also show they could harden exploits to defeat operating system security measures,” Brumley said in a Pentagon media release. “They were better at pulling attacks off the wire, analyzing them and being able to take action.”

Photo via USMA Public Affairs/Wikimedia Commons (PD)

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*First Published: Feb 17, 2016, 9:03 am CST