From May 5 to 7, 2021, two grade 11 Riverside teams participated in the 2021 Canadian Cyber Defense Challenge. This capture-the-flag event, introducing students to cryptography, cybersecurity, and criminology, consisted of high school and university teams from across Canada. In the high school category, “The Frogs” placed fourth and “The French Fries” came thirty-first.

Students working on project.

The challenge was based around a fake story of a cyber attack at a hotel called Hairmont. By looking at video conference recordings between the employees and remotely accessing the desktop of the hotel computer, students tried to figure out who was at fault for the breach and what information they accessed. The teams that got the furthest in this step would then create a presentation with their findings and suggestions for the hotel on how to improve its digital security.

The Frogs (Ammarah Siddiqui, Simon Gale, and Ksenya Narkevich), along with The French Fries (Rachel Smid, Janelle Omambac, Megan Simpson, and Shanez Meziani), and with the help of teachers Mr. Shane Ford and Mr. Oliver Mietzker, and grade 12 student Tyler Kerswell, started the day at 7:00am in the school library and worked until 5:00pm on the case.

At the end of the day, The Frogs placed seventh among high school teams from across Canada and were tasked with creating a presentation about their findings to present to judges the following morning. According to Siddiqui, the team stayed up late that night to prepare for their presentation, which allowed them to compete in the finals for third place. That evening, they went through another round of presentations, which led them to finishing fourth among high schools, seventh overall, and second in British Columbia. “The students impressed the industry experts and judges in both the technical round and the presentation rounds,” said Mr. Ford. “It was very rewarding to see the teams place so high nationally.”

Simon Gale described the event as “pretty overwhelming and tiring.” Spending 10 hours, not including the presentations, on one task was exhausting for the team. Chef Tony provided the students with free lunch from the school cafeteria during the first day to help keep spirits up and stomachs full.  Palo Alto, a cybersecurity service platform, provided financial sponsorship for the teams this year, so Mr. Ford is currently looking for a similar sponsor to allow them to participate again next year. They will be able to compete with more technical skills and a better understanding of the competition format.