Basin Electric employee helps lead future cyber warriors to victory

Jason Wald

Basin Electric Network Security Analyst III Jason Wald shared his expertise in Palo Alto firewalls with the team of students that competed in the North Central Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in March. Wald is pictured here at the Palo Alto Networks headquarters building in Santa Clara, California.

Cyber security has been in the media almost daily for the past several years. From data breaches at department store chains, which exposed customers’ private information, to attacks on America’s electric grid, cyber attacks are occurring across the world and affecting millions of people every day.

The only defense against these attacks is to train “cyber warriors” to prevent the attacks from happening in the first place. One of these warriors is right here at Basin Electric, and is sharing his knowledge with the workforce of tomorrow.

In late March, the North Central Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, the regional division of a national competition, was held in Madison, South Dakota. This was the first year North Dakota had a team that participated in the event. During the competition, eight students from Bismarck State College and the University of Mary, both located in Bismarck, participated in simulated, real-world cyber attacks with the goal of protecting their fictitious business’ network.

In order to prepare for the event, associate professor of computer information systems and team advisor Matt Frohlich, studied scenarios from previous years and every week for six weeks brought in industry experts, who would work to prepare the team for situations they could likely face in the competition. One of these experts was Jason Wald, a network security analyst III at Basin Electric.

Wald’s expertise is in Palo Alto firewalls, a product used by Basin Electric and designed to provide extensive network security. “Matt contacted me and asked if I would be willing to help the students prepare for the competition, which I was happy to do,” Wald says. “I spent one, three-hour evening with the students showing them how the firewalls work and why they are effective.”

During the competition, North Dakota’s team was in charge of providing cybersecurity for a fictitious hospital, while a team of hackers tried to penetrate its network security. While trying to diffuse this situation, the team also encountered “business injects,” or other situations that needed to be dealt with in addition to the cyber threat. For example, the company’s CEO called and his email wasn’t working, or an HR employee called saying his computer had a virus, so a team member needed to clean it off and reconfigure the computer.

“Hands-on exercises like the ones in this competition are a perfect way to show students in the information technology field how what they are learning in the classroom will be used in the real world,” Wald says. “Some of the scenarios they deal with are things we deal with on a daily basis. It’s as close to real life as it gets.”

Of the 12 teams that participated in the competition, the North Dakota team placed third, which Wald says is impressive, especially since it was the first year the team participated.

Teacher Matt Frohlich says when the results were announced, both he and the students were “super pumped.” He says the team will participate in the competition again next year and hopes Wald will be willing to offer his expertise again.

“Every business out there, no matter what it is, has assets that need to be protected, and chances are that a hacker will attempt to penetrate its defenses at some point in time,” Wald says. “It is our job to be ready to defend those assets. I was happy to help prepare future cyber warriors to do just that.”

Cyber_02

Jared Phelps of Bismarck State College looks over Stephen Feldpausch and Tanya Taplin, both of the University of Mary, during the North Central Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. The students contended with a team of hackers infiltrating a hospital server during a competition scenario. (Photo by Spc. Thea Jorgensen, 116th Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

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