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Ohio’s Cybersecurity Workforce Development Policy and its eCTF Representation

At MITRE Engenuity we focus on workforce development. Getting future cyber professionals interested in careers in the field is essential to ensure a robust workforce that can defend organizations and the entire nation. For this reason, we are proud to offer the Embedded Capture the Flag (eCTF) competition, a program that engages students in a challenge that tests, and boosts, their skills in embedded security. Each year competitors build security systems for a different embedded system, e.g., a key fob or chip and pin ATM, then attack the systems that others have built, learning of their mistakes while helping others learn their own.  

Due to increased interest from organizations seeking to connect with skilled cyber students, this year we have introduced a sponsor program to eCTF, greatly increasing the chances for students to make crucial career connections. 

ECTF continues to grow 

Now in its 8th year, the competition is better than ever. With over 80 teams from U.S. and international organizations participating, no state is more highly represented than Ohio, with eight teams from the following institutions: 

It isn’t surprising to see unique representation in eCTF from Ohio, as MITRE’s commitment to workforce development is particularly strong in the state. We have used both our MITRE Dayton site and Riverside Research (also based in Dayton) to help with university outreach. “We have talked with the University of Dayton extensively on the subject. We’ve also spoken about it with the Northeast Ohio Cyber Consortium (NEOCC), which has ties to Northeast Ohio universities, as well as industry and government offices there (both federal and state)” says MITRE Engineering Platform Marketing Lead Justin Orr.  

Cybersecurity for Ohio 

Ohio’s state government has also been showing their commitment by funding the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee (OC3) since 2015. The OC3 was created to determine the best means of improving cybersecurity within Ohio across government, critical infrastructure, businesses, hospitals, and citizens within the state. One of the OC3’s main goals was to create a Cyber Range which could be used for cybersecurity teaching and training. The Ohio Cyber Range Institute (OCRI), which supports collaborative cybersecurity programs across Ohio, was started as an effort of the OC3 Cyber Range Subcommittee and now operates out of the University of Cincinnati. “We also discussed eCTF with OCRI” notes Justin. 

OC3 members include public, private, military, and educational organizations. The OC3 Education & Workforce Development Subcommittee builds alliances with employers, educational institutions, and public and private partners, and encourages input and participation to improve the training and education of users and students in cybersecurity. “I have been impressed with how quickly and thoroughly Ohio schools and institutions have been to embrace cybersecurity education, especially through innovative teaching methods like the eCTF. After only three years since the first school from Ohio joined the competition, Ohio has become the most-represented state in the eCTF” says Ben Janis, former participant and now senior MITRE embedded security engineer who is heavily involved with eCTF organization. 

Silicon Valley moving Midwest? 

Ohio’s stellar representation in the eCTF proves the success of programs like OC3. Not only is it boosting the presence and capability of future Ohioan cyber professionals, but it is simultaneously improving the diversity of talent representation, as Ohio’s teams for the ECTF come from a wide variety of establishments: universities, but also career centers, a high school, and the Air Force Institute of Technology.  

After ranking nearly last among states in key growth sectors as recently as 2001, Ohio’s movement towards technology and workforce development is creating jobs and leading to increased economic output. This movement and growth helps Ohio compete domestically, providing potential for growth in emerging sectors, while also developing and upskilling future workers who will play a critical role in America’s strategic competition.