Saturday, August 15, 2020
Kasson-Mantorville High School Cyber Club members pause for a photo. They include, from row, Joseph Peet and Courtney Bohrer. Back, Annie Buresh, Keana Meneses, and club advisor Chris Lannin. Not pictured is Julia Christensen. Members representing two teams placed first and second in their division in state competition.

Taking on the Cyber Challenge

K-M students shine in first year of cyber security competition
“They wanted to have fun with it, they wanted to learn, and they dug in and did a great job for their first year. I’m very proud of them.” Chris Lannin K-M Cyber Club advisor

Kasson-Mantorville High School’s Cyber Club is off to a nice start in its first season.

K-M teams placed first and second in state competition in their division, and one of the teams placed 33rd out of 445 teams nationally.

The students competed virtually at K-M on Feb. 11 against about 145 teams from the U.S. and Canada in the competition, which focuses on learning cyber security measures.

K-M’s first-place team included freshman Julia Christensen and juniors Annie Buresh and Keana Meneses.

The second-place team included freshmen Courtney Bohrer and Joseph Peet.

The students competed on three types of computers, seeking system vulnerabilities and working to make them secure. They score points when they complete the process and an opposing team does not.

“It’s definitely challenging, and you have to work with others,” said Meneses, who worked with the Windows 8.1 system. “You definitely learn a lot from it. Stuff that you would never know, but it’s good to know. What we work on is more company computers, to make your employees and users secure, make sure they’re not downloading hacker sites, deleting those hackers, or non work-related apps. So I think it’ll work more in business than right now, which is really good, especially for big companies.”

The students competed over six hours, from Feb. 9 through Feb. 11. 

Many said the biggest challenge was working with Ubuntu, an open source software operating system that runs from the desktop to “all Internet-connected things,” according to Ubuntu.com.

“It was sort of difficult to go in at first, and then as you’re coming out into it, it kind of got easier,” Peet said. “Still, it was difficult as time went on.”

“It is really difficult at first if you’ve never done it before,” Bohrer said. “Ubuntu is probably the worst, because no one knows it. I worked on Windows a lot, and you start to get the hang of it. There are some things I still don’t get, but I plan to continue this, because it’s really fun once you get the hang of it.”

Buresh worked on a Linux computer with an Ubuntu operating system, securing and adding and deleting users, enabling firewalls, “and more complicated things,” to try and prevent cyber attacks.

“I hope to make a career out of cyber-security,” she said. “It kind of just gives me a taste of what I’ll be going into.”

The competition operates through CyberPatriot, the National Youth Cyber Education program.

The competition puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company, according to uscyberpatriot.org. 

Teams compete for the top placement within their state and region. The top teams in the nation earn all-expenses paid trips to the National Finals competition in Baltimore.

“I was very impressed with the students this year and how we competed,” K-M club advisor Chris Lannin said. “We had practices. Not as many as we wanted to, but we learned as we went. They wanted to have fun with it, they wanted to learn, and they dug in and did a great job for their first year. I’m very proud of them.”

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