America’s NSA Challenges Students With A Codebreaking Competition, Then Recruits Them

This year America’s National Security Agency (NSA) is once again “developing a cyber challenge and daring more than 330 schools and 2,600 students to solve it,” writes Federal News Network.
Slashdot reader eatvegetables shares their report:
Kathy Hutson, the senior strategist for industry and academic engagement at the NSA, said the Codebreaker Challenge has become one of the best ways to attract the next generation of talent to the federal government… NSA launched the Codebreaker Challenge in 2013 as a way to further connect with students and professors, who are focused on technology and cyber issues. Over the last six years, the annual initiative has become a much-anticipated challenge with professors making it a part of their classes and students testing their mettle against NSA’s cyber experts…

The initiative provides students, professors and anyone else who is interested “with a hands-on opportunity to develop their reverse-engineering /low-level code analysis skills while working on a realistic problem set centered around the NSA’s mission,” said Eric Bryant, a technical director in the crypto analysis organization at the NSA. The 2018 challenge focused on ransomware and blockchain, requiring participants to solve eight separate, but related challenges… Bryant said a group of NSA cyber experts develop the challenge each year on top of their regular duties. He said they try to focus on areas that are either up-and-coming or current cyber threats and attack vectors. For the 2019 Codebreaker Challenge, Bryant said it likely will focus on mobile security threats, probably using an Android operating system…

Bryant said he reaches out to all of the students who solve the challenge and NSA sends them letters of recognition and a memento for participating. “We reach out to these students to figure out what year they are in, how could they come here to do internships or hire them full-time, so we are definitely on that from a hiring and recruitment perspective,” Hutson said.
The NSA keeps a leaderboard ranking the participating colleges. (Last year Oregon State had over 100 students participating.)
The 2018 challenge is still online, Bryant says, “and there are people who are working and submitting solutions.”

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