The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Future (legal) hacker computers cyber-skills into a win

Photo by Leah Kreisler
WCHS senior Calder Scott smiles proudly while holding his award for the Regionals SkillsUSA Cybersecurity Championships.

“Bank Fraud Alert: Did you attempt a transaction at ‘Target’ for $10,898?” Scam messages like these are becoming more common and increasingly dangerous in this new digital era. The rise of scams and cybercrimes has proven the imperative role of cybersecurity.

WCHS understands that learning to navigate computational systems is a practical skill in this technology-dependent society, and offers a variety of computer science classes ranging from “AP Computer Science Principles” to “Computer Programming 3.” However, a student’s interest in this progressing field may drive them to learn beyond what is taught in the classroom. 

“SkillsUSA”, as noted on its website, is the number one workforce development organization for students and hosts many local, state and national competitions covering a number of different workforce fields which allows students to apply their classroom knowledge to reality. Recently, WCHS senior Calder Scott was one of the top students at the Thomas Edison High School of Technology “Local SkillsUSA” competition and proceeded to win first place representing the school at the “Regional SkillsUSA” cybersecurity competition. 

“There were three parts to the competition,” Scott said. “There was a practice test for the CompTIA Security Plus exam, a virtual lab and an interview. After attending three periods at WCHS, I attended a cybersecurity class at Edison. During the period leading up to the competition, we were already studying to achieve the CompTIA Security Plus certification, so I was pretty confident for that part of the competition.”

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All students enrolled in Edison’s cybersecurity program are required to take the CompTIA Security Plus exam, which covers many topics ranging from technical security laws to physical security laws, and everything else needed to excel in cybersecurity. Once one earns the certification, they can immediately enter the workforce or go further and earn a degree. 

“Our teacher quit one month ago, and we have not had a teacher since,” Scott said. “We spent the whole year studying for the Compt TIA Security Plus exam, but when the teacher left, there was no guidance, and we had to study alone. Luckily, I did enough on my own to pass.”

It can often be frustrating when teachers are not present in class for long periods of time, especially when they are preparing for big assessments and competitions, and instead students are stuck with a different substitute teacher every day. However, Scott’s situation serves as testimony that perseverance is the driving force in one’s success, no matter the circumstances. Scott passing the exam was a milestone for his future cybersecurity career and ultimately helped him get a full score on the first part of the competition.

“The second part [of the competition] was the virtual lab where they gave us a virtual computer, and we had to set up a few things on a network,” Scott said. “Both the first and second parts were where most teams got 100 percent, so we were all under a few points of one another, and it was up to the last interview section to be the deciding factor.”

The first two sections were relatively straightforward and fairly easy to prepare for. However, the interview section of the competition was difficult to directly train for, so there was a rush of adrenaline knowing that it was the pivotal moment of the race, separating first from last. 

“The interview was mainly on physical security as they gave us the map of a facility and asked us what the most objective ways to secure the floorplan were [if we added] security measures,” Scott said. “Teammates are assigned, and each teammate has to contribute a certain amount in the interview. Looking back, I wish I had rehearsed more with my teammate, making sure we were on the same page with the information regarding who was going to cover what.”  

Having assigned teammates added a new level of difficulty to the competition as there was a high probability that the pair had never spoken before and had only met a short period before they were scheduled to compete.  Thus, during the event, there were opportunities for miscommunication, where one teammate messed up on a task that the other teammate knew how to do. This led to  point deductions, causing unfathomable frustration. 

“Overall, it was a fun and challenging experience,” Scott said. “I have always thought computers were cool, and how you can hack them is cool, so being a legal hacker by working on the other side, defending against hackers is a cool prospect to me. I am thankful for this competition in letting me explore more of this field.”

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About the Contributor
Catherine Chan
Catherine Chan, Assistant Online Editor
Catherine Chan is currently a junior at WCHS and the Assistant Online Editor for the 2023-2024 school year. She is excited to work with new people this year and continue her passion for writing. Outside of school, she is a competitive swimmer and lyrical dancer.

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