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11/30/2004 - Cyber Wars Rage at Riverpoint

As the supreme test of all they have learned in their computer and network security courses, the students in John Shovic’s graduate-level Information Warfare class at Eastern Washington University (EWU) divided into armies for a “Cyber War.” Two armies were formed --- the red army and the blue army. The students came suitably attired for the event --- black was the color of choice for both armies --- some wore black hats, some had spiky and multicolored hairdos. Face paint was used as needed. The idea was to defeat the other team by causing computer crashes, denial of service, get through firewalls and steal data, infect with viruses, and all the other dirty tricks one might devise to defeat a cyber army.

The war took place at EWU's laboratories and classrooms in the SIRTI building on the Riverpoint Campus. For a battleground, each army had a “pod;” each pod had eleven different computers set up in two racks to emulate the Internet. There were audio servers, Web servers, video servers, all running Linux, and all running a different process available for attack by the other army. Army headquarters were set up in different rooms to eliminate crosstalk.

Separate from the army pods was a scoring server. Each army headquarters had a projector beaming the score onto the headquarters’ wall for instant updates in the action. The war lasted from 4:00 pm until 10:30 pm.

Dr. Shovic’s own words give the best play-by-play of the event possible.

“The First Annual EWU Red/Blue Team hacking contest was great,” says Shovic. “Ten minutes after the contest started, Blue killed a series of Red Services which weren't restored for about 30 minutes, building up a big initial lead for Blue. Blue led from 4 pm until 8 pm when Red finally caught up and led (off and on) to the contest end at 10:30 pm. There were vast quantities of hacking going on. The two teams focused offensively on taking down services of the opponents, (Web server, data base, sfind, servlets, icecast and FTP), all the while trying to play defense by applying patches, restoring services, and installing firewalls.”

“There was real time update of service status and score by projectors on the wall of each team room, and you could hear the groans as FTP went down for the 30th time. It was very funny to watch and listen.”

“We stalemated at about 9 pm when both teams had firewalled their servers to prohibit the other team from contacting or attacking it. We removed the firewalls at this point as "it was not in the spirit of rules requiring that the team server must continue to offer services". Taking the firewalls down led to a whole new series of back and forth taunts and attacks.”

“The "funny highlight" of the night was when one combatant accidentally fired up his "airsnarf" configuration (designed to emulate the Starbucks WI-FI login screen) which ended up taking over the Web server providing the cyber war’s real time updates and suddenly the projection screens were filled with the Starbucks Web site offering a Ray Charles album rather than the team scores and services.”

“Much Caffeine and Pizza were consumed.”

For more information about Dr. Shovic’s upcoming network courses, e-mail

Billie Moreland
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