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Virginia Military Institute hosts first SMC Cyber Fusion challenge

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 6:13 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) - Cadets from the six senior military colleges, places like Texas A&M and Virginia Tech that have cadet programs dating from the 19th century, are learning about a very 21st century problem: cyber security.

For example, what do you do if your company gets hacked?

“Event X has happened. What do you do?” said VMI Cadet John Barker. “How do you respond? What’s the best way to do it?”

That’s the challenge faced by cadets from the nation’s six senior military colleges at the first SMC Cyber Fusion challenge.

“There is a great gap in cybersecurity talent and especially cybersecurity literature,” said Col. Mohamed Eltoweissy, director of the VMI Cyber Defense Lab, “and the senior military colleges are best qualified for developing leaders of the future.”

Through exercises like this one, where cadets are broken into color-coded teams, each taking on a corporate role to address the challenge.

“It’s having to place us in as real world of a scenario as they can by saying: you are the leader of your specific organization,” Barker said. “So now, what do you do?”

“I mean, these guys are our future military leaders,” said Bryce Bucklin.

Bucklin graduated from VMI in 2017, and helped organize the first Commonwealth Cyber Fusion as a cadet.

“It impacts everyone’s life,” he said. “Like, your social security number, your personal information. You might not know why that’s important, and some people might not be like, you know, I don’t have really anything to hide or whatever, but you do. It’s about connecting the dots.”

“Almost everyone needs to be immersed in this cybersecurity and needs to have that mentality that things have to be protected and have to be secured all the time,” Eltoweissy explained.

And here they learn how.

“It is technical and it’s everything else,” said Barker. “It’s like trying to run a business without the consequences of making a wrong choice.”

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