KeyW is now part of Jacobs. Learn more about this exciting combination.

Challenge Accepted: KeyW Looks for the Impossible

What’s it like finding a needle in a haystack?

A team of KeyW technologists found out in late February when they competed in a hackathon with members of the U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM). KeyW employees Eric Conway, Chris Morris, Connor Bulakites and Benson Tran marked KeyW’s first-time participation by placing fifth overall in the competition.

The most exciting aspect was competing with USCYBERCOM and 10 other industry teams on the development of prototype technologies that could potentially form the basis of operational capabilities for our military.

Eric Conway

“The most exciting aspect was competing with USCYBERCOM and 10 other industry teams on the development of prototype technologies that could potentially form the basis of operational capabilities for our military,” explained Conway.

These Rapid Prototyping Events (RPE), hosted by DreamPort, a cyber innovation, collaboration and prototyping facility in Columbia, Maryland, challenge subject matter experts and cyber professionals from industry, academia and government to competitively address USCYBERCOM’s highest priority technical requirements.

For the Needles in the Haystackevent, teams produced a detailed map of an unknown network highlighting critical assets that, if disabled, would cause the mission in execution on the network to fail. The only data provided were network traffic in the Packet Capture (PCAP) format, a standard used by network analysts to understand the communications and activities crossing a network.

Teams received 48 hours of PCAP data to determine the type of devices communicating and messages sent, and to deduce the mission, roles and responsibilities of the people operating the network. Teams also had to produce a network map enabling operator visualization of network topology and highlighting the most critical network elements. The teams shared this map with USCYBERCOM members, who evaluated and scored each team.

This event was really the culmination of our years of training and learning on typical government programs, and shows just how strong this training can be.

Chris Morris

“This event was really the culmination of our years of training and learning on typical government programs, and shows just how strong this training can be,” said Chris Morris. “Experienced cyber operators and data scientists are often challenged to quickly develop working prototypes in limited time and stretch themselves outside their areas of expertise. In many ways, it mimics a start-up environment, where anyone might be called in to work on the problem and bootstrap their knowledge of the area in only a few hours,” he added.