Perspectives and thoughts on US Cyber Challenge

The US Cyber Challenge is a camp that pushes students to become cyber security professionals. Being a cyber security enthusiast, I wanted to attend. I had the privilege of attending the Cyber Camp in San Jose this summer on scholarship, and it was one of the best experiences I have had in my life. From tactical attacks to finding friends, I felt like the camp taught me more in one week than I have learned in a year of regular school.

At the camp, I admit I was lost for a bit. After a little walking around and meeting other people with the same passion as me, I was happy knowing there were people I could turn to with questions who I could call friends. Since we were placed in dorms, we were forced to mingle, laugh together, and share what we learned. Living in my own apartment, this was very different to me. I helped people set up machines, and people shared their industry experience, helped me break down barriers, and allowed me to continue improving myself. On the first night, I remember the emphasis on family and the icebreakers to push us closer together. Some people formed coalitions, but the idea is we all became comfortable with each other.

The first day of training arrived and a SANS instructor, Alissa Torres, taught us about Memory Forensics. The topic was very interesting, though I wish the presentation were a little slower, because most of the information went over my head. Of course, if it were slower, then we would be learning for days or weeks. The same applied for the days following Reverse Engineering Malware, Tactical Attacks, and Writing Exploits. I could not keep up with the information overload, but I really enjoyed it. I can understand the idea of what they were all saying and recall some tidbits I thought were important, and that was cool with me because I was learning what I wanted to.

One class I enjoyed was Tactical Attacks by Jim Shewmaker. Why? Because I love the idea of being a red team hacker and breaking into things. I was able to keep up for every little detail, and I used and expanded on my current knowledge of Metasploit and its abilities. I love the fact that while we were soaking in all this information, we had about an hour or two to apply what we learned. I was able to hone my tactical attack skills, which proved useful on capture-the-flag day.

With sponsors from prestigious organizations, such as VISA, Facebook, FireEye, and even the FBI, the camp was able to excel when it came to offering quality instructors and great material. Moreover, I noticed the willingness of the sponsors to talk to us and even offer us jobs. I had a great time discussing the various sectors and mingling with the array of professionals presented to us by the camp and even walked out knowing some amazing connections.

The whole week was a blur. The strenuous training, late nights, and the capture-the-flag competition at the end of the week went by and we could return to our normal lives. By that time, I was so accustomed to the lifestyle that I wish that the camp was a little longer. As they say, all great things come to an end, right? Nope. We carry on the experiences and continue to find ways to improve ourselves. We continue talking to the great friends we made at the camp. I ended up seeing US Cyber Challenge friends at other events, and we are able to high five and mingle as great friends do. US Cyber Challenge left me with one of the best experiences ever. Would I go again? Yes.

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