RALEIGH, N.C. – A North Carolina National Guard (NCNG) Soldier earned top national honors at the 5th Annual SANS Institute NetWars DoD Services Cup Championship, a virtual cyber problem-solving competition held online at various locations Dec. 17-18.
Sgt. Michael Gibbs, a cybersecurity analyst with the North Carolina Army National Guard's 883rd Combat Engineer Company, with five other Army and Air National Guard members beat teams from the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserves, Space Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and the Defense Information Systems Agency.
"Cyber is always interesting," said Gibbs.
Gibbs was chosen for the six-member team due to years of experience working at Bank of America, military training and multiple state and federal real-world cyber missions – including incident response, state board of elections, and Republican National Convention duty.
Gibbs is also a member of the NCNG's Cyber Security Response Force, which deploys as needed to support local, state and national agencies.
"Gibbs is a great example of the cyber talent pool that resides in our force," said NCNG Army Lt. Col. Robert Felicio, the NCNG's chief information officer.
The Services Cup is a defense-focused competition testing skills in computer and systems administration, threat hunting, analysis, cryptography, and more. As the teams progressed, the problems became increasingly complex, with real-world attack scenarios from simplistic, brute-force attacks to complex ransomware campaigns.
"Basically, it is a cyber puzzle and you have to figure it out," said Army Col. Teri D. Williams, the commander, 91st Cyber Brigade, who chose Gibbs and the rest of the National Guard Services Cup team.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the remote nature of cyber defense, the event was held virtually with teams coordinating online and not at a central location.
The National Guard team took an early lead in the competition the first day. The second day had several lead changes, but the National Guard team pulled ahead and won.
"Gibbs is a big winner. I am super stoked," said Eric R. Gladman, SANS Institute Army national account manager.
It is not just bragging rights; the competition honed skills needed to meet current and future cyber challenges that Guard professionals face every day.
"People are amazed we can do this in the Guard," said Gibbs.