CyberpatriotsThree of the four New Jersey teams competing in upcoming National Youth Cyber Defense Competition — all from Little Silver — are pictured with their coaches.  Front row, L-R: Sophie Navarro, Sam Jansky, Brooke Arend, Josh Sapirstein, Leanne Spears, Mentor Ryan McVeety. Middle row: Mentor Greg Jansky, Holly Scanlon, Charlotte Jansky, Erin Rooy, Matt Swaggerty, Middle School Assitant Coach Kristen Galante. Back row: Coach Jeremy Milonas, Kyle Neary, Louis DiOrio, Tyler Birn, Mark Eulner, Josh Even, Coach Mandy Galante. The teams welcome NJ citizens to follow them on Twitter, hashtag #NJCyberStrong.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

At a time when the press is bemoaning the loss of high tech jobs from the Garden State, New Jersey schools — recognized among the best in the country — are building the bench to provide the “cyber patriot warriors” that will defend and protect the United States from cyber crime and terrorism.

This reality will be on display March 11 to 13 in Washington D.C., when New Jersey will be the only state represented in all three divisions of the prestigious Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot’s National Youth Cyber Defense Competition.

Team Alpha from NWS Earle placed second in the All Service Division (Cadets), in a competition that began with over 1000 teams. Team Maroon from Red Bank Regional High School led the way by taking the Number Five slot in the Open Division (High School) finals, after having competed with 978 teams. In the Middle School Division, two teams from Markham Place School in Little Silver won the first and third place slots. They competed among nearly 200 teams nationwide.

cadetstwoNew Jersey’s Championship Cyber Security Team (service-division), Team Alpha from NWS Earle in Monmouth County, is headed for the March finals in the prestigious CyberPatriot’s National Youth Cyber Defense Competition.  Pictured left to right are Jeremy Zukosky, Luke Gleba, Alex Lopez, and John Kovacs.

The competitions began in November, and consisted of four elimination rounds. The most recent and final round occurred in early February. The competition required teamwork, critical thinking skills and technical knowledge in hardening computers and discovering weaknesses that could leave the hardware and networks vulnerable to cyber attacks. In addition the students had to employ software tools to monitor the systems.

The High School and Middle School teams from Little Silver share two coaches: RBR Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) teachers Mandy Galante and Jeremy Milonas, who approached the regional school district’s middle schools to enter the competition. Mrs. Galante recruited her daughter-in-law Kristen Galante, a math teacher at Markham, to field the team of middle school students.

RBR graduate and AOIT Cyber Security Competition superstar Ryan McVeety is also volunteering his time and expertise to mentor the younger students from his hometown. Additionally, a Markham parent Greg Jansky is mentoring the younger students. One of the teams is completely composed of girls, a rarity for a STEM competition and one of the reasons the RBR high school teachers were anxious to forge this partnership.

Mandy Galante explains, “Jeremy and I had hoped to be able to recruit more girls for our high school team and have been hearing that they self-select not to study technology before they come to high school. We hoped that by reaching them at a younger age, we could increase their participation once they arrive at RBR.”

For the past eight years, RBR has turned out superstar students in their Cyber Security Program, winning local, regional state and national competitions. Several years back, an RBR team won the CyberPatriots completion in Washington. The program has been lauded by many entities including the New Jersey Governor’s office. The first cohorts of the program have just graduated college, and have landed excellent jobs making high starting salaries in both private industry and governmental agencies.

Team Alpha is coached by Jack Lopez, who volunteers his time to the NWS Earle cadets (his son Alex is a member of the team). Jon Linn, the Database Manager for the Lycee Francais School in New York City mentors the cadet team. Amazingly, this is only the second year the cadets have competed in the program.

All four teams are now training hard for their trip to the National CyberPatriot Finals; putting in many hours of training after school and meeting most weekends to train together at RBR.  According to the coaches, in their quest to bring the big trophies home to NJ, Team Maroon will step their cyber skills up to the next level.  They will not only have to fix all the security vulnerabilities on Windows and Linux computers, but now they will also have to defend against real-time attacks from the Red Team like Denial of Service, Trojans, Backdoors, Password theft, Man in the Middle attacks and Web Exploits. After that four-hour challenge, the teams will face a Networking exercise from Cisco as well as a Digital Forensics crime scene.

According to a press release by the Air Force Association (ASA), “In all, more than 2,100 teams registered to participate in CyberPatriot VII, marking more than 40 percent growth to the competition field from last season. Registered teams represented all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and the U.S. Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Europe and the Pacific.”

The RBRHS and Markham Place teams are hoping for community support to rally them for their trip to DC.  The students created Twitter handles RBRCyberPatriot and MPCyberPatriot and have coordinated tweeting with the hashtag #NJCyberStrong.  They welcome New Jersey citizens to follow them on Twitter and cheer them on to victory. Governor Christie was one of the first to tweet his support.