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Competitive CyberPatriots

St. Ed first Iowa team to join in national program

November 22, 2010
By EMILIE NELSON, Messenger staff writer

The United States is a nation that is extremely dependent on technology in nearly everything it does, but it could only take one attack on an organization's computer system to lose crucial information that may never be retrieved.

To help raise awareness of those issues and to generate an interest in cybersecurity careers, the Air Force Association designed the CyberPatriot program two years ago for select groups of high school students, opening the competition to all high schools this year.

St. Edmond high school is among the 650 high schools nationwide participating in the CyberPatriot cybersecurity competition, and the first high school in Iowa to participate in the contest.

"There were 12 teams in the first competition," said Justin Faiferlick, a local representative with the AFA. "It was just ROTC chapters in Florida who tried it. Last year, they opened it to ROTC and Civil Air Patrol students. And now, it's open to all high schools."

The three members of the St. Edmond team - senior Kelsey Faiferlick, sophomore Thomas Woodruff and sophomore Jordan Slotten - participated in the qualifying round Nov. 14 in a six-hour international competition using a special software program to identify potentially harmful and malicious software. They were judged on their overall score and ability to identify threats with 75 percent of the program being malicious material and 25 percent standard configurations.

"The students look at computer settings to see if there are any malicious programs running and try to remove those from the system," said Faiferlick.

Fact Box

Educators learn about cybercrimes

St. Ed hears about dangers of online bullying and sexting


Messenger staff writer

In today's world, access to technology has become part of every day life for teenagers, giving them access to a seemingly endless world of information.

But, according to John Quinn, director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, there are also risks.

"The worst part about the Internet is that you can do anything," Quinn said to teachers and staff at St. Edmond Catholic Schools during a Wednesday afternoon presentation.

It's a world that can be dangerous leading to rumors, bullying, and even suicide among youth, Quinn said.

"The direction that we are heading, I don't know if it's a good thing," he said.

What appears to be nothing more than cell phone or Internet communication between a young boyfriend and girlfriend can even become a crime, known as "sexting."

"Kids don't always know about that," said Quinn. "It's illegal. If a 16-year-old girl sends a nude photo of herself over the Internet, even if her boyfriend asks for it, it's a crime. It can result in a felony and manufacturing and distribution charges."

Quinn said even when someone thinks a message is just between them and the intended recipient, it can be in the hands of hundreds of people in a matter of minutes.

"It causes embarrassment," he said. "It causes bullying and then tragedy occurs. When something like that happens, law enforcement can get involved and file charges as a result. They send the photo, but where is it going to end up?"

Some photos may end up on social sites such as Facebook, where they can be accessed by sexual predators who may try to find the origin of the photos, get more of them and arrange a meeting with the sender.

According to Quinn, 39 percent of all teenagers have done sexting if they have access to technology, but the percentage of those who have received a "sext message" is higher.

"About 48 percent have received one, which means they're sending them on when they get them," he said. "When that happens, there is no confidentiality about it."

Quinn said when an image is shared via sexting, the result can be decreased school attendance by the sender, more bullying, distrust in relationships and in the worst case, suicide.

The legal impact can be even greater.

"It's child pornography," he said. "It's scary that kids don't realize they are violating the law. They can be suspended from school and face criminal charges."

Quinn encouraged the teachers to watch for bullying among students and to report any inappropriate messages.

"As a school it is your job to investigate any reports of cyberbullying," he said. "There is no changing your mind in cyberspace. Once you hit 'send' it's out there and will never really go away."

Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or

In the first round of competition, the students had to identify 17 different vulnerabilities, and the St. Edmond team was able to identify 14 of the 17, likely qualifying them for the second round of competition on Dec. 11.

"They did well," said Tyler Van Houten, the team's mentor. "With that many of the vulnerabilities identified, I'd say they probably qualified for round two."

St. Edmond was able to enter the competition with a lot of local support. The computer used by the team was donated by Personal Computer Solutions, and the the Fort Dodge chapter of the Air Force Association sponsored the $350 entry fee, which included software, participation in the competition, a T-shirt and admission to the national competition in Washington, D.C., should the team qualify.

Senior Kelsey Faiferlick said she enjoys participating in the CyberPatriot program and has even learned a few things about how to protect her own computer.

"I've learned a lot about malicious software," she said. "It's taught us how to fix updates, and I've learned how I can protect my own computer."

The team is coached by Travis Patterson and mentored by Tyler Van Houten.

There are two more rounds of competition, and should St. Edmond qualify and successfully complete each of them, they students will earn an all expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in the national competition in April.

Contact Emilie Nelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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