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    DISA Soldier takes top prize in government-wide President’s Cup



    Story by Alexandra Snyder 

    Defense Information Systems Agency

    A DISA Army Warrant Officer and four teammates were awarded top accolades at the first government-wide President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition hosted by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
    Army Chief Warrant Officer Three Benjamin Koontz, technical advisor for DISA’s Cyber Operations Directorate, along with Army Major Josh Rykowski, Army Cyber Command; Chief Warrant Officer Four Phillip Smith, 781st Military Intelligence Battalion; Army Sergeant First Class Zachary McElory, and Army Staff Sergeant Matthew Cundari, both of Army Cyber Protection Brigade, took first place in the competition.
    Over 1,000 individuals and more than 200 teams of federal employees and military members competed in the competition, which began in September and was comprised of three rounds, with the final taking place Dec. 11-13. Contestants—both individuals and teams—took part in the first two rounds remotely by solving Jeopardy-style Cyber challenges in a virtual environment.
    “It started with about 200 teams in the beginning,” said Koontz. “That was reduced to 50 teams in the second round, and then five teams, including ours, competed in the two-day final in Alexandria.”
    The final event consisted of a capture-the-flag style series of challenges, where points were awarded based on different categories of cyber security skills – such as forensics, exploitation, reverse engineering and data analytics.
    “A lot of times during the challenges, our team would divide and conquer. We all have great overall skills, and have competed together in the past, but sometimes a team member was really strong in something, and able to complete the challenge in, say, 20 minutes versus the other team members’ two hours. We complement each other really well, and that’s a huge factor in our winning.”
    The competition, established by President Donald Trump in May 2019, was open to all government agencies. Individual competitors in the challenge came from 21 different agencies, while teams represented 17 different agencies.
    All of the teams who competed in the final challenge were from the Department of Defense.
    “All of the teams coming from the Department of Defense says a lot about how much we’ve invested in cyber,” said Koontz. “The DoD in general is passionate about cyber. A huge part of that is cyber security, and at DISA, it’s part of our job every day.”
    That dedication to combatting adversaries in cyber space is vital to the future national security, said CISA Director Christopher Krebs at the event.
    “The United States depends on a strong cybersecurity workforce, but for years the available talent has not kept up with demand … The President’s Cup Cybersecurity Challenge is just one of the ways we’re working to build the nation’s cybersecurity workforce – by identifying, highlighting, and rewarding the top talent in government.”
    Part of the reward of competing is honing skills and learning new technology that could help accomplish the military mission, said Koontz.
    “The President’s Cup, and similar cyber challenges, require problem solving and critical thinking skills, which are very important in today’s changing cyber security environment. The challenge may require you to learn tools you’ve never used to solve a simulated problem, but that tool may help you solve a real problem when it really matters.”
    A desire to constantly improving one’s craft is what Navy Vice Adm. Nancy Norton says makes federal employees and military members so special.
    “This competition, where that service and devotion to constantly improving was on display, is indicative of military and federal employee dedication to not only their only skills and profession, but also the security of our nation.”



    Date Taken: 02.26.2020
    Date Posted: 02.27.2020 12:41
    Story ID: 364041
    Location: DC, US

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