5th SFG Cyber Det Trains in Virtual Competition

All-Army CyberStakes 5th Special Forces Group Cyber Detachment

By Sergeant Gregory Summers.

While aspects of daily operations have changed for 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) due to the COVID-19 threat, the level of readiness is one that cannot be affected. With creativity and technology, Cyber Operations Soldiers within the 5th SFG(A) continue training to maintain their readiness.

Efforts to maintain social distancing among Soldiers within 5th SFG(A) and continue training has challenged the cyber detachment’s leadership to think outside of the box. One idea on how to continue to train, is to use the Army Cyber Institute’s (ACI) upcoming All-Army CyberStakes Competition slated for April 24 – May 3, 2020, online.

“Participating in this competition allows us to sharpen our skill sets,” said a Sergeant 1st Class, who is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the cyber detachment. “This is the perfect substitute for us to train as we don’t have full access to the things we do have at work due to the social distancing.”

According to the Cyber Operations NCOIC, the “All-Army CyberStakes” is the premier individual, computer security, and skills competition of the DoD. The platform tests a diverse array of abilities, including forensics, cryptography, binary exploitation, reverse engineering, and web-based exploitation.

The competition is run annually in an online, jeopardy style, or capture-the-flag format. A new concept 5th SFG(A) Soldiers have yet to challenge.

“This will be our first time competing in this event, but we do similar things like this to bolster our skillsets regularly,” the NCOIC said.

Capture-the-flag is a format of computer security competitions that present competitors with authentic software flaws in a progressively difficult, challenge-based environment. Figuring out these flaws allows a competitor to recover a bit of secret information called a flag.

“Our goal is to capture the flag and find hidden items or ‘Easter eggs’ while doing an analysis of the system that ACI is providing,” the NCOIC said. “We are identifying key vulnerabilities while testing our individual skillsets.”

An example of a flag would be ACI{I_read_the_friendly_docs_4FF8}. The competitors use the code to hack in and “capture the flag”. No matter how you get the flag, you get the points. As in real life, there are often many ways to hack a challenge.

In a Jeopardy-style CTF, the challenges are organized by category with increasing point values for more complicated problems. The winner is the competitor with the most points, and ties are broken by first to solve.

“While competing, we can identify what we are good at and what we need to improve on,” the NCOIC said. “After this, we can focus on getting back to the books and basics to really hone in on perfecting our skills.

“I think most importantly, during this social distancing, we can stay united during this competition and continue to keep our Soldiers engaged and ready,” the NCOIC said.

The Cyber Stakes competition is free and is open to any federal government employee as well as all cadets in ROTC and attending the service academies.

All-Army CyberStakes


This story was first posted on DVIDS on April 17, 2020. Story by SGT Gregory Summers, Technical Information Support Company, 4th Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, KY.
5th SFG(A) Cyber Detachment stays ready with virtual competition“.

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