Media Advisory: Twenty High School Teams from California to Compete in Statewide Cyber Innovation Challenge June 23-25 at Cal Poly

Competition to give students a chance to display their expertise in preventing a mock malware attack on a health care facility
What: Twenty high school teams from across California will participate in a statewide competition designed to introduce more students to cybersecurity as a future course of study and career. The California Cyber Innovation challenge is hosted by Cal Poly and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz).
The participants include one team from Coast Union High School in Cambria, which was awarded Best New Cyber Team at last year’s event.

When: On Sunday, June 24, the high school students will participate in a digital forensics challenge at the California Cybersecurity Institute (CCI) at Camp San Luis Obispo. Media members are encouraged to attend the competition between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. 
On Monday, June 25, the students will participate in a healthcare network challenge from 8 to 11 a.m. on campus, tackling cybersecurity puzzles and challenges designed by cybersecurity analysts and Cal Poly professors.
Where: California Cybersecurity Institute at Camp San Luis Obispo, off Highway 1, and Cal Poly’s campus. Media planning to attend this Sunday’s competition at Camp San Luis Obispo should contact Danielle Borrelli at The student healthcare network challenge will be held Monday, June 25, in the Advanced Technology Laboratories (No. 7) on campus.
More information: This year’s California Cyber Innovation Challenge (CCIC) highlights the challenges of securing health care information and devices.
“There are over 35,000 job openings in the cybersecurity field in California, and these critical skills are needed now,” said Bruce Burton of Cal Poly’s California Cybersecurity Institute. “It’s a global problem — we’re falling further behind. We’ve got to get more students interested in this burgeoning area and provide them with education, training and resources so they can become our future leaders in this field.”
On Sunday, June 24, the CCI will be transformed into a military hospital so that the students can immerse themselves in a real-word scenario, using state-of-the-art forensics tools to stop a ransomware attack. Each team will then have to prove their case to a panel of judges.
“This challenge really becomes a case of life or death, as students must stop the ransomware from erasing critical medical data which could jeopardize patients’ lives,” said Professor John Oliver, director of Cal Poly’s Computer Engineering Program in the College of Engineering. “The competition really affirms the growing importance of protecting the healthcare system against evolving cyberthreats.”
Several Cal Poly students have helped develop this year’s challenge, including computer science major Cassidy Elwell and liberal arts and engineering studies alumna Ciera Dixon, who graduated in June 2017 and is the interactive communication and design coordinator for the CCI.
“This last year has been career-changing,” Elwell said. “I have written trainings based on forensic techniques I learned, made and analyzed forensic images from mobile and laptop devices, and gained investigative experience on data recovery. Overall, I’m thrilled that this project will allow a wide variety of students from across California to explore the technical and investigative skills used to solve real crimes.”
Added Dixon: “Planning the story, puzzle, and set design aspects of the CCIC was an incredible opportunity. This project pushed me to come up with an engaging story that raises awareness for real-world issues and engages high school students in digital forensics. It’s very rewarding to work on a project that actually makes a difference.”
Teams of high school students from across California competed in regional cybersecurity challenges in order to qualify for the statewide competition. The participating teams either won their regional cybersecurity competitions or submitted applications to participate. The teams include students from the Central Valley, East Bay, San Jose, Riverside, Los Angeles, Orange County, Sacramento and San Diego areas. See the full list here.
Learn more about the Innovation Challenge at
The competition will be preceded by the first California Cyber Innovation Challenge Workforce Development Summit at Cal Poly from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, June 22, focused on addressing the shortage of cybersecurity skills. Speakers include Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning, California Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, who serves as chair of the Select Committee on Cybersecurity; and John Carrese, director of the San Francisco Bay Center of Excellence. It will be held in the Recreation Center (No. 43) in the Multipurpose Activity Center (MAC) on campus. For more information on the Workforce Development Summit and to register, go to
About the California Cybersecurity Institute
The California Cybersecurity Institute (CCI) is a robust, multi-agency effort to protect California through enhanced cybercrime forensics and statewide tactical response training. A partnership between Cal Poly and the California National Guard, the CCI aims to educate the next generation of the cyber workforce and provide faculty and students with a new, hands-on research and learning environment. It serves as an extended Learn by Doing space for Cal Poly students to explore new cyber technologies and train and test tactics side by side with law enforcement professionals and cyberforensics experts. Learn more at

Contact: Cynthia Lambert

June 19, 2018

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