Women’s Alliance for Cyber Security prepared for spring competition


Annie Cassutt/Iowa State Daily

Yamini Mathur workings during a Women and Cyber Security meeting. 

Annie Cassutt

Last spring, Jamie Kruk, junior in computer engineering, went to a career fair and a recruiter brought the idea of a cyber security club to her attention.

When Kruk spoke to some of her friends about the idea, she found that there was enough genuine interest in the topic to get a club started on campus.

“They [my friends] didn’t feel like they had an opportunity to explore the field,” Kruk said.

Their club, the Women’s Alliance for Cyber Security (WACS) is new to campus this fall. WACS dedicated the first half of the fall semester to preparing for the Cyber Defense Competition, which was held on Oct. 7 and hosted by ISEAGE, a cybersecurity program on campus. WACS had six members participate in the competition, and for most of them it was their first competition. 

The competition lasted eight hours, and revolved around professional hackers trying to take down the teams’ networks.

“You try and keep your machines online because the hackers try and take them down, and you try and protect the information and follow what the hackers are doing on your machines,” Kruk said.

Kruk compared the competition to the game Capture the Flag, where teams lose points if the hackers capture their flag.

The competitions also include anomalies, which, according to Kruk, are “little challenges ranging from identifying what programming language a program was written into finding a file embedded within a PDF image, so they are all over the place.” 

“I was happy with how we did,” Kruk said “We beat two teams, but it was really good because we were staring as complete beginners.”

WACS meets once a week from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Carver Hall 0124, and is open to anyone who is interested in cyber security. In the past few meetings, they have been looking at ways they can learn and improve for their next competition in March.

“It’s only been a few meetings since then, and we spent the first couple looking back on the competition and what we learned from it and what we can apply to next semester,” Kruk said. “We are just starting to get into learning the tools that we are going to need in future competitions.”

Vice president Yamini Mathur also explained how they club is now learning from the fall competition to prepare for the spring one.

“It was so much fun but exhausting because we didn’t know what we were doing,” Mathur said. “We are trying to break it down so we are well prepared for the next competition. We are trying to do it in a stress free environment.”

During each meeting, the team tries to look at ways to solve different anomalies from the previous competition.

“We are looking at where we lost points and where we can do better and where we can most efficiently try and improve our score,” Kruk said. “I knew we had a lot to learn, but I was really happy with how enthusiastic everyone was.”