Deciphering Cyber Security with Ross Clarke '18
Deciphering Cyber Security with Ross Clarke '18

Deciphering Cyber Security with Ross Clarke '18

Ross Clarke always thought his love of coding and cyber security was just a hobby. That all changed when he made PG's cyber security B team his junior year.

"I was ecstatic. I love the fact that I'm able to expand my knowledge on computers. The way a computer thinks and works is logical to me and to decipher how it works is so fun," says Ross.

This year, Ross moved up to PG's A team and has played an important role configuring networks during tournaments such as Cyberpatriot, PG Capture the Flag 2018, and the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition.

CyberPatriot is a year-long competition that puts teams of high school and middle school students in the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. In the rounds of competition, teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cyber security vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services in a six-hour period. Teams compete for the top placement within their state and region, and the top teams in the nation earn all-expenses paid trips to Baltimore, MD for the National Finals Competition.

Just a few weeks ago, PG's A team went to the CyberPatriot regionals. The team, made up of seniors Tillson Galloway, Caroline Linkous, Ross Clarke and Cameron Hay, and sophomore Charles Truluck, placed 21st out of 500 teams. Unfortunately, only the top 12 teams move on to finals. The team is currently ranked 21st nationally.

In addition to Cyberpatriot, the A team hosted the PG CTF2018 back in January. The competition is a series of cyber security Capture the Flag "games" where teams of up to four students are tasked with solving various security and computer science challenges. Challenges range from intentionally vulnerable websites that must be exploited, to cryptography, trivia, algorithm/programming, and forensics challenges. PG CTF is the only student-led event in the state.

"It was fun to be part of the team putting it together this year, and to watch visiting teams solve my cryptography problems that I worked on for weeks."

Next up for the team is the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition (PCDC) in April.

Every year, the three-day Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition is held by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, in collaboration with the South Carolina Lowcountry Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). PCDC is an event for the promotion of Cyber Security education and awareness. This competition is intended to energize local high schools and colleges to invigorate focused curriculum development for the type of technical skills that are needed in today's fast paced and challenging cyber environment.

Porter-Gaud hopes to repeat winning the title again this year.

"All of these competitions are designed to teach you. You are constantly learning more and more with each tournament. You will always know more than when you started after each tourney," says Ross.

Ross will pursue cyber security at Southern Methodist University or Florida State next year.

"I thought I was going into finance and then I had this great talk with my dad. He encouraged me to pursue what I love about cyber security and to make my hobby my career."

So where does Ross hope to start his career after college?

"I hope to be back in Charleston with one of our cyber security companies like Phish Labs or Soeteria. Unlike Silicon Valley, where the company failure rate is high, companies here have been able to evolve and thrive."