TechNet Augusta

A first in cyber ‘capture the flag’

Students at the Army’s cyber school and a Japanese defense force participated in what service leaders are describing as the first international “capture the flag” type event.

The international exercise, held Aug. 21, sought to improve the organizations’ relationship but also aimed to share best practices between key allies as a way to strengthen training and best practices. Teams from the Army’s cyber school and Japanese ground self defense force cyber students faced off.

Capture the flag events involve a set of challenges and objectives students have to meet with the tools at their exposure, which tests their knowledge and ability in areas like networking, for example.

“It’s not sometimes about the curriculum, it’s just training methodologies, what are good lessons learned. Being a good coalition partner, if we’re learning things that are bad and things that are good, we want to share them with others and we want to reap the benefit as well,” Todd Boudreau, deputy commandant at the Army Cyber School, told Fifth Domain. “As our students see students from another coalition partner, they’re likely to see them one day on an operations floor. We want to start that [speed of trust] real early so we can build those bridges right away.”

The event was hosted at the Georgia Cyber Center – a state of the art facility in Augusta, Georgia created with $100 million of taxpayer money that seeks to bring together various communities within the cyber landscape – and sponsored by Parsons, a defense contractor.

Six Army student teams tried to edge out six Japanese cyber student teams, Tom Barnes, director of strategic cyber operations at Parsons Cyber, told Fifth Domain.

The Japanese teams were participating remotely.

The training for cyber across the Department of Defense is regulated by U.S. Cyber Command, which sets minimum standards each cyber warrior must be trained to. With that, the Army can take lessons from the Japanese, in this case, and feed them to the larger DoD enterprise.

“We take those lessons learned right into the classroom and manipulate our curriculum to meet that … You can have a perfect training that meets with a knowledge, skill and ability and it’s kind of a good measure of performance that your training did that, but it’s really the measure of effectiveness. Is that really giving the capabilities that the cyber mission force needs,” Boudreau, said. “The services share those things both within DoD and then with the other nations as well, again, it’s a team sport.”

Army leaders hope to grow the event. Next year, Boudreau said service officials are in talks for a second game. Representatives from the German military have already expressed interest, he said.

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