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Hackathon competition helps hone cyber defense skills

Amanda Simmons

CSRA’s Integrated Technology Center (ITC) is playing offense when it comes to honing its cyber defense skills.

Two teams competed in two- day Hackathon event, which was a dual-site competition-style training for CSRA information technology experts to develop innovative solutions for complex, real-world challenges in infrastructure, Development Security Operations (DevSecOps), cybersecurity, and disaster recovery.  Bennett Upton, Associate Programmer, said the challenge was to basically build a website using offsite resources and defend it from attack.

“They are building applications on servers and we don’t even know where they’re at,” he said. “They are off somewhere in another state. They can control them from here and gain access from here.”

Since there are many different aspects of technology, one thing they do is ensure cyber security is part of every project or service.

“Cyber security is of utmost importance with anything we’re doing,” Mimi Hedgcock, Senior Principal, External Affairs- Integrated Technology Center, said. “Similar to a football team that practices before the big game or our first responders that hold disaster drills, we are doing the same to get that hands-on experience.”

In total, seven teams with various technical backgrounds in Application Development, Cyber, DevOps and Cloud Services competed against each other to learn about new products and further expand their expertise. The knowledge and skills gained will be applied in the Applications Development and Cloud products and services.

This will further integrate cyber security at every level for customers within the federal government. CSRA also partnered with alliance partners Amazon Web Services (AWS), Nutanix, and Sontaype to test the new next-generation technologies against cyber threats.

Paula Thrasher, Director of Digital Services, said hackathons are popular in the cyber world because of the practice and experience it provides.

“It’s a really valuable thing for security people to learn, but it’s also important for other people to learn too,” she said. “In today’s world, every company and everyone running IT is getting threats thrown at them every minute and every second of the day from locations all over the world. You can’t not think about it. There are very few things in life today that doesn’t touch computers. It’s important that we not only defend from those attacks, but we design systems that aren’t vulnerable to those attacks.”

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