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2013 Competition Tests Digital Forensics Prowess

An annual online competition sponsored by the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) has reopened for the year, to allow students and others to test their abilities in digital forensics, an area of study on how to collect and preserve electronic evidence, recover lost data, and protect networks and computer systems from breaches. The DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge runs until the beginning of November 2013.

The Challenge takes entries from individuals, teams, and institutions, which provide technical solutions for computer forensic examiners in the lab and field. Challenges range in difficulty from introductory, serving as a check of basic knowledge, to "500 level" problems, which require master-level knowledge and innovation.

About two dozen individual exercises test prowess with:

  • File and registry analysis;
  • Password and data recovery;
  • Steganography (the art of hiding information); and
  • Tool development.

As each player or team progresses, the challenges become tougher and more complex. Solutions for the 2013 competition are due by October 31.

Last year's contest drew 1,209 teams from 49 states and 53 countries.

A team made up of four graduate students from West Virginia University and the University of South Alabama won the 2012 challenge. The winners received passes to a "Hacker Halted Conference," $100 Best Buy gift cards, access to International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants courseware, and a trip to the 2013 DC3 Conference.

"The competition was a great way to learn the skills needed for cyber security in the real world," said Raymond Borges from West Virginia U. "The challenges were developed by professional investigators from the Department of Defense and it allowed us to measure ourselves against the best private companies, military organizations, civilians, and academic teams in the world. It's also an excellent project-based learning experience that I believe more universities should integrate into their educational programs. The competition also gave us the opportunity to develop connections with other students who had skills in some areas we were lacking and learn from each other."

Both universities are designated as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research, a designation made jointly by the U.S. National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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