For the second year in a row the same six-member team from a Toronto high school has won the annual CyberTitan cybersecurity competition for students from Canadian middle and high schools.
The winning team from William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute, called Unavailable For Legal Reasons, scored top points in the fifth annual simulation test, it was announced Wednesday afternoon at an online ceremony.
“It was exhilarating,” team member Tracy Wang, 17, said in an interview of hearing the team was again number one. “It’s nice to know we’re still improving.”
A six-person team called Art Academy, also from Mackenzie, placed second.
A four-person team called 6ixside Tech, from Toronto’s Earl Haig Secondary School, was named Defender of the Year for the way it performed, and also placed third overall in scoring.
Of the 130 teams that entered the problem-solving competition last fall, 11 made the final: four from Western Canada, four from Eastern Canada, the top middle school team, and year two all-female wildcard teams.
The five-and-a-half-hour competition, which took place Monday, saw teams of between four and six members competing against the clock to perform a number of functions, including installing security patches, escalating access privileges for some users, and reducing access for others, setting Windows group policy object rules, looking for and removing malicious software, and doing regular operating system hardening. Successfully completing each task earned points, with the winning team having the most points.
This year, students were placed in an imaginary mission control centre that linked to a manned station on the moon.
As in the previous two years of the competition, teams competed virtually because of the pandemic.
Each member of the winning team receives a $1,000 Amazon gift card. The team will also get a one-hour mentorship session with cyber staff from KPMG Canada. The second-place team members each received a $500 Amazon gift card, while the third-place team members each received a $250 Amazon card.
For the second year, the online environment was provided by Ottawa’s Field Effect and its cyber range simulator. The company also created the tests.
“I’m super-impressed with the amount they [the participants] actually know at this young age,” Noel Murphy, the company’s director of simulation technology, said in an interview, “and I hope they will continue down this path. We have a university-college level co-op program here and I’m hoping that some of the students that are graduating this year will apply next summer to work here. I’m excited for what they can bring to the table already just with what they’ve been self-taught, let alone what they can learn from real professionals.”
“There is a huge shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the world — Canada is no different — and the only way to overcome that shortage is by getting youngsters interested in cybersecurity. They don’t have to have a cybersecurity background. We have a number of people at Field Effect who do not have a cybersecurity or IT background but have landed a cybersecurity job here.”
ITWorldCanada.com was able to interview three of the six members of the winning Mackenzie team. They’ve been a team for the past three years. All are in Grade 12 and will graduate shortly.
Celeste Luo, 18, said her interest in cybersecurity dates back to wanting to secure her own computer. “I find it interesting to find obscure vulnerabilities,” she said. She said she most likely will study computer science when she goes to university.
Ivy San-Chang, 17, plans to go to the University of Waterloo to study systems design and engineering. The CyberTitan competition is “pretty chill,” he said. Other students should form teams and enter the competition, he said. “Through experiences like CyberTitan and CyberTitan you’re tested on skills and have the opportunity to learn about securing operating systems and networks.”
Tracy Wang is among those who came into computing through a mandatory Grade 9 computer science course. When an announcement was made that Mackenzie was looking for students for an additional CyberTitan team she decided to try out.
“Cybersecurity is very interesting because of how often it changes,” she said. “There are always new attacks, new ways of defending. It’s very dynamic.”
She’s undecided on cybersecurity as a career, with thoughts about studying engineering or sciences.
Team coach and computer sciences teacher Philip Guglielmi first met the six two years ago. “They seemed to be a lot more experienced than you might expect. The amount of knowledge for people who were in Grade 11 at the time was quite impressive. You could tell they really had it together and were dedicated.”
The CyberTitan competition is a good way to get teens interested in cybersecurity, he said. “Any time you have a contest or a team-based competition that introduces them to a field of study like this really gets people excited. You get that competitor spirit, that competitive energy so the movitivation is provided to learn things.”
The 11 teams that made the final were
- MHS Junior Warrior, from McAdam Middle School, McAdam, New Brunswick;
- 6ixside Tech, from Earl Haig Secondary School, Toronto;
- Art Academy, from William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute, Toronto.;
- Unavailable for Legal Reasons, from William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute, Toronto;
- FalconTech Post Mortem, from Centre Wellington District High School, Fergus, Ont.;
- Morpheus, from Centre Wellington District High School, Fergus, Ont.;
- PTEC Sweats, from Pembina Trails Early College, Winnipeg;
- Syntax Error, from Sisler High School, Winnipeg;
- Olympians Apollo, from Old Scona Academic, Edmonton;
- Olympians Athena, from Old Scona Academic, Edmonton;
- Olympians Poseidon, from Old Scona Academic, Edmonton.
(This story has been updated with comments from the students and their coach)