Global Awareness

Hacking the Hackers

by Karen Liang (Class of 2022) with DVGS Editorial

Cyber competitions are activities that bring cybersecurity awareness to communities and build strong and ethical character in the students who participate. This, in turn, helps build a future cyber workforce for all cities in California.


On Saturday, February 23,  nine freshmen were encouraged to wake up early to attend the California Mayor’s Cyber Cup (CMCC) at the Mendocino College. The competition was held to introduce and prepare students to face challenges related to cybersecurity, was held for the first time this year in the Far North,1 one of the nine regions throughout the state of California. The mission of the CMCC is to “utilize cyber competitions to spread awareness about cybersecurity and the many opportunities that exist within that field. CMCC brings Students, parents, teachers, government officials, business leaders, and other stakeholders together to help build California’s future cyber workforce.” Furthermore, along with the rise of vacant cybersecurity occupations in both the public and private sectors, there is also a need for cybersecurity experts with a firm grounding in ethics.

As a result, the ninth grade Ethics class, which is focusing this school year on ethical awareness of issues related to technology and current events, along with the help of their teachers, Ms. Lee and Ms. Justice, practiced and honed their skills to compete in the match. Members from our class that were able to attend were divided into two groups named DV1 and DV2, and then launched into an intense preparation period less than three weeks before the Cyber Cup. When we arrived at the site, the other two participating schools were reviewing their strategies with all eyes fixed on their laptops.

“Our opponents looked extremely intimidating, but that didn’t stop us from trying,” freshman Nina Xie proclaimed.

After all the high school students arrived at the competition site, and politely received their t-shirts and name tags, they were led to the college’s computer lab where groups were established in an orderly manner. Once the start time was struck, every student engaged in the competition immediately focused on the computer screen before them, eyes searching around for even the slightest clue. For nearly four hours, each group struggled to claim as many flags, or answers, as possible. The flags, each written in a specific format, could only be unlocked when a participant discovers the virtual attacker behind each given scenario. Weariness was not a great concern for the girls as they persevered until the very end.

Once the competition was completed, the groups were welcomed in succession into a room by school name, each group was announced and applauded. Results were also announced. As ninth graders, our teams were assigned to the Middle School Division (High School Division is tenth grade and above), and DV1 placed second (387 points), and DV2 placed third (296 points)2 respectively out of the five schools in the area competing in the younger grades. During lunch, certificates were awarded to each participant as they personally shook hands with the mayor of Ukiah, Maureen Mulheren. Other local government officials, as well as deans and professors from Mendocino College were also in attendance. Miniature 3D-printed trophies were delicately handed to each team’s coaches in recognition for competing.  Everyone was astonished that our teams did so well with less than three weeks to prepare. Some of the students that competed are considering continuing onto AP Computer Science classes, and possibly participating in more cybersecurity competitions in the future.

1 Mendocino College and Butte College hosted 15 teams that participated in the Northern California region of the CMCC.
2 Leaderboard: