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Air Force ROTC cadet earns spot in cyber security boot camp

UD Air Force ROTC cadet Michael L. Stamat is a junior computer engineering major.

9:52 a.m., March 16, 2007--Michael L. Stamat, a University of Delaware Air Force ROTC cadet and junior computer engineering major, has been selected to participate in a special “hacker's boot camp” this summer.

The 10-week Advanced Course in Engineering (ACE) Cyber Security Boot Camp will be held at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate in Rome, N.Y.

Candidates for the ACE program are chosen nationally from National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service fellows and Air Force, Army and Navy ROTC cadets. The junior and senior computer engineering, electrical engineering and computer science majors must be U.S. citizens, with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and the ability to run six miles in an hour.

“In November, the field of applicants was narrowed down to 200, with the final 34 participants recently announced,” Stamat said. “I have had this kind of training in mind for a long time and it felt great when I received my orders to participate. My parents were ecstatic.”

The ACE program offers participants a balanced regimen of officer development and leadership training, as well as academic challenges and internship experience with individuals from a variety of professional backgrounds.

“Mondays include eight hours of lectures from professors, as well as military and civilian professionals from all over the country,” Stamat said. “Two copies of a 50-page weekly report based on academic projects and internship correspondence must be turned in promptly at 8 a.m. each Monday morning. Failure to do so a second time results in dismissal from the program.”

Built around a common theme of cyber security, class topics include information warfare, policy and legal issues, cryptography, network attack and defense and digital forensics. Other topics include malicious code design and analysis, covert channels and mobile and wireless security.

Tuesdays through Thursdays are basically 9-5 on the job internships where participants shadow working professionals and get an idea of what it is like to work in the field, Stamat said.

Fridays, or “fun-days” as they are referred to by participants, kick off with an 8-mile run, followed by various mission-based projects and a brief class on individual research projects.

The ACE hacker's boot camp concludes with a “capstone hackfest,” a large-scale, two-day long cyberwar, with two competing teams using over $180,000 in state-of-the-art government furnished equipment.

“Students are divided into three-person teams that must use their respective skills in fulfilling mission assignments,” Stamat said. “This means you have to learn to think like a hacker. You have to figure out how a hacker or a hostile group would take down a vital network system to inflict as much damage as possible. Really, it's hack or be hacked.”

A native of Lincoln, Del., Stamat said his interest in computers and ROTC began during his time as a student at Sussex Technical High School in Georgetown.

“My electronics teachers in high school were retired Air Force veterans, and got me interested in technology and the Air Force,” Stamat said. “I knew Air Force standards were high and that UD's AFROTC wanted the best to build better leaders for tomorrow's military. Now accepted into the program and having completed field training last summer at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, I am well on my way to pursuing that dream.”

Stamat said that he is looking forward to the cyber security hacker's boot camp and has been communicating with other participants in this summer's ACE program

“This is a relatively young age to get this kind of experience, and we will hit the ground running the first week we are there,” Stamat said. “I am glad that I will be able to use this training to serve and give something back to the country that has given me so much.”

Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photo by Kathy Atkinson

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