For the second consecutive year, an Anne Arundel Community College cyber forensics team won first place in the Community College Division of the U.S. Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) Digital Forensics Challenge! Additionally, the team was ranked 23rd of 1,209 teams internationally (including grad school, industry and military teams).
This year’s team, “Mad Hatters,” includes Marcelle Lee of Severna Park and Dustin Shirley of Odenton. Both are in the “Cyber Forensics 2” (CSI 208) class taught by Dawn Blanche, instructional specialist for AACC’s cyber program. Although Lee is majoring in cybersecurity and Shirley is majoring in cyber forensics, neither had prior experience in digital forensics when they started working on the yearlong competition last spring. After tackling the first problems, both signed up for the first forensics course, “Cyber Forensics 1,” in the summer.
“They worked tirelessly up until the buzzer, to use a sports term,” said Blanche. “They did research levels beyond the foundation courses. I couldn’t be more proud.”
The Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) Digital Forensics Challenge consists of 35 individual scenario-based, progressive level exercises open to both U.S. and non-U.S. teams. Contestants are qualified as government, military, commercial, graduate, undergraduate, community college, high school or civilian participants. All participants compete and receive scores based on solutions to the same 35 exercises.
Lee said she began the exercises as a way to check her skills against an outside source. Each success propelled her to continue. Shirley’s summer instructor mentioned the challenge and he thought he’d try it. When they both landed in Blanche’s second forensics class, she suggested they become a team.
Scoring was based on their ability to recover digital evidence, and their understanding of legal authority, proper documentation and report-writing techniques. The team was highly motivated, using not only their foundation from Cyber Forensics class, but tools and techniques discovered with their own intensive independent research.
The exercises are broken down into five levels, the Level 100 Novice, Level 200 Advanced, Level 300 Expert, Level 400 Master which has no known solution and Level 500 Developer where teams must develop digital forensic tools to complete the exercise.
Both students will graduate in May 2013 and are trying to decide on the next step they want to take in order to pursue a digital forensics career. Both feel confident they have the tools to continue.
“AACC is offering the most aggressive degree program where we are exposed to the same curriculum that gives us skills required of experienced workers in the field,” Shirley said.