University of South Alabama School of Computing graduate student Josh Cazalas was part of a team that took first place in the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center’s 2012 DC3 Digital Forensics Challenge.
More than 1,200 participants competed in the Challenge with teams from 49 states and 53 countries representing the government, military, private companies, and universities. Cazalas’ team finished first in the graduate student category and was the top academic team among 364 others in the competition.
Cazalas’ team was composed of students from West Virginia University and they never met in person. Instead, they met over Skype or through email when performing the majority of the tasks.
The competition consisted of a list of challenges with more points being awarded the earlier the task was completed. The challenges the team faced consisted of writing software, cracking encryption, and performing steganalysis, which is the practice of finding hidden messages in pictures or other media.
“The DC3 competition was a great way to learn the skills needed for cyber security in the real world,” Cazalas said. “The challenges were developed by professional investigators from the Department of Defense and it allowed us to measure ourselves against the best teams out there. The competition also gave us the opportunity to develop connections with other students who had skills in some areas we were lacking and learn from each other.”
The team received prizes including gift cards from Best Buy, electronic books and coveted passes to the Hacker Halted Conference (valued at $1,699 per person).
Cazalas plans to graduate with his master’s degree in Computer Science in December 2013.