Unraveling reconnaissance, cryptography, network forensics, reverse engineering, and more is all in a day’s work for many cybersecurity experts. CACI interns had the opportunity to put these skills to the test during a competition hosted by the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI), CACI International, and the Virginia Cyber Range.

“This CTF (capture the flag) allowed me to use tools outside of a classroom environment in a competitive and collaborative way,” said Carly Wolfe, a senior computer science and Chinese studies major at Virginia Tech.

CACI interns attending George Mason UniversityLaurel Ridge Community CollegeRadford UniversityRegent UniversityVirginia Military Institute, and Virginia Tech participated in CACI CON 2023, held June 12 at CACI’s CRADLE collaboration facility in Reston, Virginia.

CCI connects students to industry

Industry leader CACI often recruits interns at CCI-sponsored events, as CCI is a statewide initiative focused on research, innovation, and workforce development at the intersection between cybersecurity, autonomous systems, and intelligence. CCI's network includes 42 Virginia colleges and universities, and Virginia Tech plays a leadership role. 

“CCI’s industry partners give Virginia college students the opportunity to work on real-world cybersecurity problems in a professional environment,” said Luiz DaSilva, CCI executive director. “This invaluable experience helps prepare interns for a rewarding career in cybersecurity. We’re fortunate to have partners such as CACI who invest in mentor-led internships and for Virginia Cyber Range’s contribution in developing strategic competitions.”

Capture-the-flag competitions enhance student skills

David Raymond, Virginia Cyber Range director and deputy director of Virginia Tech’s IT Security Lab, believes that capture-the-flag competitions offer a powerful and engaging platform for workforce development, and the competitive aspect of the game incentivizes problem-solving, strategic thinking, collaboration, and innovation.

“Cybersecurity competitions are proving to be popular not only for high school and college clubs, but also for companies looking to train and empower their cybersecurity workforce,” said Raymond. “We’re seeing increased interest in capture-the-flag competitions by companies to use as a training tool, enabling them to level up the skillsets of their cybersecurity teams and reinforce their resilience against evolving cyber threats.”

Companies benefit, too

Investing in the next generation of cyber and cyber-adjacent professionals through such events can give students a career boost while providing companies with the skilled workforce they need.

“I hope to see further engagements with CCI where we continue things like CACI CON, but also continue to have bigger and broader ventures, as well,” said Dan Bono, CACI’s vice president of Cyber Mission Operations.

Some interns-turned-employees enjoy these experiences so much that they continue to participate. 

“I really liked CACI CON last year, and this one went well, too. I’ll, for sure, come again next year,” said William Shelley, a Virginia Military Institute graduate who’s now a member of CACI’s software team.

Written by Jinlei “Julie” Lin, Cybersecurity Communications Intern at the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.

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