Eagles Take on a Leadership Role at Aviation Cybersecurity Summit

Embry-Riddle students Isabella Cromwell, Maxwell Werner, Tianna Sardelli, Justin LaZare, Kestrel Carlough, Samuel DeKemper, Stephen Levvy, Elizabeth Chwialkowski and Nathan Fuentes were part a team that recently hosted a cybersecurity competition in Orlando, Florida. (Photo: Krishna Sampigethaya)

Students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Cyber Intelligence and Security (CIS) department were invited to develop and host a capture-the-flag competition at the recent Aviation Cybersecurity Summit in Orlando, Florida, Nov. 2-4.

“This is the first competition of its kind being offered in the world,” said Dr. Krishna Sampigethaya, chair of the Department of Cyber Intelligence and Security.

Sponsored by Aviation Information Sharing and Analysis Center (A-ISAC), the conference served as a who’s-who in the global aviation cybersecurity community, representing airlines, airports, government entities and other agencies.

Ten college teams participated in the competition, which featured 13 modules totaling 178 questions. The top-three teams won cash prizes from A-ISAC, as well as other rewards from participating airlines.

“As the project lead, an important lesson learned from this experience is the importance of delegation: allowing space for team members to pull through on challenging tasks,” said Justin LaZare, who is majoring in Cyber Intelligence and Security.

The competition scenario imagined that “hacktivists” had attacked systems at a major airport, compromising ticketing kiosks, airline servers, flight information displays, transportation security, aircraft, air traffic control system and more. The participants served as cyber defenders tasked with regaining control of compromised systems.

“Coming into this, I didn’t have much background in aviation, and the (capture-the-flag) competition as a whole was an amazing opportunity to really learn about the importance of aviation cybersecurity and how different cyber threats affect the industry,” said Elizabeth Chwialkowski, also majoring in Cyber Security and Intelligence. “It was also really cool to hear from industry professionals at the A-ISAC Summit and learn more about the current threats and security focuses in the industry.”

Those connections with industry pros had additional benefits, as well.

“Not only did we learn directly from industry professionals at the conference, but we got to network with them,” LaZare said. “This may open doors that can secure a career after graduation.”

Several cybersecurity undergraduates — including Kestrel Carlough, Elizabeth Chwialkowski, Isabella Cromwell, Nathan Fuentes, Justin LaZare, Stephen Levvy, Tianna Sardelli, George Waldron, Maxwell Werner — and graduate students — Garett Atkins, Sam DeKemper — were involved in developing and supporting the challenges under the mentorship of professor Jesse Chiu and Sampigethaya,.

“This a unique growth opportunity for students,” Sampigethaya said. “The competition requires them to be trainers of aviation cybersecurity.”

Sampigethaya also served as co-principal investigator for the NSF CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service grant, which sponsored four students from the competition’s development team. Embry-Riddle is also the nation’s only Scholarship for Service institution in the nation for aviation and aerospace cybersecurity.

Both the developers and the participants “needed to use knowledge, skills and abilities in cybersecurity — such as password cracking, log analysis, computer forensics and ethical hacking — intelligence and aviation to succeed,” said Sampigethaya.

*Dr. Krishna Sampigethaya contributed to this report.

Posted In: Computers and Technology | Security Intelligence and Safety