Future Leaders: Graduating Coast Guard Academy cadet aims to guard the cyber coast

On May 18, 2016, the Class of 2016 will graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and become the newest group of officers in the U.S. Coast Guard. Over the past four weeks, Coast Guard Compass took an inside look at four of the upcoming graduates and the future of these new leaders. Tune in next week for their commencement story.

First Class Cadet Caleb Stewart

First Class Cadet Caleb Stewart

As the world pushes for more interconnectivity, cyber security has been at the forefront of the minds of companies and government alike.

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, these critical systems quickly become outdated, increasing their potential for a cyber attack. It does not take an army to attack a person, company or country; it simply takes the time and malicious intent of some anonymous individuals on the internet.

The Coast Guard Academy’s cyber program, currently in its infancy, is part of a large initiative to grow cyber at the Academy. Rear Adm. James Rendon, the superintendent of the Academy, recently approved the official Academy Cyber Team. Courses are also currently being added every year to complement this cyber growth.

The Academy has begun new courses such as Computer Network Security, a class devoted to basic cyber security defense and analysis. The Academy has begun to interweave cyber security into corps wide courses, which will increase the overall knowledge and proficiency throughout the Coast Guard as the years pass. With these classes, cadets will receive a taste of cyber security, and if they choose, are offered the opportunity to participate in the Cyber Team and gain more specialized skills.

This month First Class Cadet Caleb Stewart is graduating from the Coast Guard Academy. During his tenure at the Academy Stewart used his interest and skills in technology and cyber security to lead the Coast Guard Cyber Team. Here, Stewart provides a firsthand account of his experience at the Academy as part of the Cyber Team.

First Class Cadet Caleb Stewart

Swab Caleb Stewart reads his Running Light book Monday, June 25, 2012, at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. Stewart is one of 251 members of the incoming class of 2016, known as swabs, who reported in at the academy during an event called R-Day or Reporting In Day.

Cyber was never new to me. Before I joined the Coast Guard Academy I was already heading down the cyber path. My interests in technology and computers started when I was around 11 or 12 years old, when I taught myself programming, and have been hooked ever since.

It was during my senior year of high school, as I was applying to colleges, that I found the Coast Guard Academy. It was intriguing to me due to the different missions it offered.

When I came to the Academy, there was not much opportunity to use my technology skills, but over time I was able to continue my growth in cyber. I never expected to use these skills here at the Academy, but in the past two years, I have had the opportunity to apply them in a variety of competitions and further my knowledge in areas I had never considered, such as malware analysis and binary reverse engineering.

In 2016, the Cyber Team participated in two big competitions. The first was Cyber Stakes, an inter-service academy competition that tested cadets and midshipmen in a variety of areas from lock picking to real-time attack and defense of network infrastructure. The Academy did incredibly well and took home second place in overall medal count. I personally took home second place in rapid fire, which tested the ability to quickly analyze and exploit unknown programs.

Later in the semester, we participated in the Cyber Defense Exercise, hosted by the National Security Agency. In this competition, we built and defended a corporate network as the NSA’s “red team” attempted to break in. We did not do as well as we hoped, but we saw this as a valuable learning experience.

I am also the captain of the Cyber Team and over the past year I have seen the team really come together. When we began, there were two of us who had extensive experience in computer programming, however that wasn’t the case for the whole team. While this sort of experience is not all there is to cyber security, it definitely lends itself to the area.

As the team formed, we found online competitions to participate in and spent Friday nights, Saturdays and sometimes Sundays competing and solving challenges. These challenges were incredibly effective.

To form a stronger team, we utilized our own knowledge to teach each other in different areas. Later, as we gained some younger, less experienced members, we designed an in-house competition, which fostered competition and growth within the team.

As cadets continue to graduate with more cyber knowledge, we will have the ability to advance the Coast Guard in this area as it continues to grow its cyber work force.

I look forward to using the skills I have learned to further the missions of the Coast Guard, whether it is in the marine safety area with relation to port security or in the operations area in relation to mission support and intelligence. Cyber security knowledge is quickly becoming applicable to every part of the Coast Guard.



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