At this moment, cybersecurity students are scouring networks for a secret computer program designed to trigger a (prop) roadside bomb, in a twist on the National Security Agency’s annual coed codebreaking contest, according to NSA officials.
A few days ago, the agency provided college undergraduates and graduate students with file downloads for solving the Codebreaker Challenge, which, in this case, is to locate, replicate or “reverse engineer,” and neutralize an improvised explosive device.
According to a countdown clock on the competition website, you have 109 days left to deactivate the bomb:
DISCLAIMER: The following is a FICTITIOUS story meant for providing realistic context for the Codebreaker Challenge and is not tied in any way to actual events.
Terrorists have recently developed a new type of remotely controlled Improvised Explosive Device, making it harder for the U.S. Armed Forces to detect and ultimately prevent roadside bomb attacks against troops deployed overseas. The National Security Agency, in accordance with its support to military operations mission, has been asked to develop capabilities for use against this new threat. This will consist of six tasks of increasing difficulty, with the ultimate goals of being able to disarm the IEDs remotely and permanently render them inoperable without the risk of civilian casualties.
NSA officials say they will confront young computer scientists with the kinds of threats the agency faces daily, partly as an intelligence analyst recruitment effort.
“The challenge is designed to simulate aspects of NSA’s mission,” agency spokeswoman Clarese Wilson told Nextgov in an email.
New for 2016, the spy agency has added “network traffic analysis” to the specialties players will have to apply during the competition.