Canyon Crest Academy wins Cyber Cup

The Canyon Crest Academy Cyber Cup team with San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

This spring the Canyon Crest Academy cybersecurity team won the SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge, upsetting the reigning champions Del Norte High School.

Now in its 12th year, the SoCal Cyber Cup is a cybersecurity competition for middle school, high school and community college students in the entire Southern California region, started by the San Diego chapter of the National Defense Industry Association.

In the May 22 finals of the competition, CCA beat out all other 23 teams in a series of cybersecurity challenges that they didn’t have any previous experience with.

Competing under the team name “we got a numbwer one victowy woyale yeah fortnwite we bout to gwet down”, CCA won $5,500 for their first place finish. The team included seniors Jason, Selena Qiao, Arnav Vora, Katherine Huang; juniors Justin Luo and Stephen Xu; sophomore Vivian Ye and Justin Lee, who graduated in June and now attends UC Riverside.

“Initially we thought we were going to be extremely outclassed by some of our rival teams in the area so we’re extremely excited that we were able to pull off this victory,” said Jason at the award ceremony.

On Aug. 9, an additional ceremony was held at San Diego City Hall where Mayor Todd Gloria presented the team with the Big Mayor’s Cyber Cup Trophy and a proclamation.

“It was exciting to meet the mayor, he was fun to talk to,” Katherine said.

Neighboring Pacific Trails Middle School’s team uwu bots won the middle school division of the SoCal Cyber Cup.

The CCA cybersecurity group said they first got started when they were in middle school at Carmel Valley Middle and Pacific Trails. At CCA, their club is known as the CCA CyberPatriots.

As neither cybersecurity or ethical hacking is a part of the curriculum, the members are essentially self-taught—the students learn how servers work, how they are vulnerable to attack and how to protect them.

They compete in local and national competitions throughout the year and meet weekly to talk about topics such as computer networking and hardening Windows and Linux operating systems. They also compete in ethical hacking challenges on topics like web security, cryptography, binary exploitation and reverse engineering.

Throughout the pandemic year, the club continued to meet virtually. For the second year in a row, this year’s SoCal Cyber Cup Challenge was also held virtually and students worked independently at their homes as a team.

In this year’s competition, the teams had to defend a system from attacks, figuring out a way to keep the system online while one “red team” kept breaking in to disrupt them.

“All services went down and we had to get them back up again,” said Arnav.

The team was surprised to beat out the strong Del Norte in the competition— Jason said their team worked together to each bring their best skills to the competition and their winning strategy was just to have fun. He said at times it felt like they didn’t know what they were doing but it all worked out in the end.

As the CCA CyberPatriots starts a new school year with many seniors on board, Katherine said it is important for the club to recruit more students to join and make sure it continues on to the next generation.

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