Sacred Hearts high school students being coached by University of Hawaiʻi computer science masters student Elliot Ito.

The University of Hawaiʻi and Hawaiʻi National Guard successfully concluded its fourth annual Poʻoihe Cybersecurity Exercise. The community-based two-day exercise was held August 4–5 at the Hawaiʻi Army National Guard 29th Brigade Assembly Hall at Kalaeloa.

This year’s exercise tested participants’ knowledge of cybersecurity-related concepts, tools and techniques and was designed to foster collaboration and learning amongst all participants. Integrated teams of up to five people from different organizations and sectors had to solve numerous challenges of varying levels of difficulty. The exercise helped assess the depth of understanding and operational competencies required in managing security risks and challenges inherent in any organization’s systems and network infrastructure.

The diverse group of participants included members from the Hawaiʻi Air and Army Guard, active duty military, Department of Defense, InfraGard, university and high school students, state and local government and industry professionals. Out-of-state participants included a team from the California Air National Guard, 261st Cyber Operations Squadron and a team from Hitachi Japan.

Of special note, the girls from Sacred Hearts Academy were the first high school students to participate as players in any of the Poʻoihe Cybersecurity Exercises.

“As a high school teacher with a team of students interested in learning, it was amazing to be invited to participate in the UH and Hawaiʻi National Guard Poʻoihe Cybersecurity Exercise,” said Deborah Kula, Sacred Hearts Academy mathematics department chair. “The students were able to see first-hand how those in the cybersecurity field handle challenges: the need to think out of the box, persevere, collaborate with others, expect the unexpected, persevere, look for things hiding in plain sight, take advantage of the skill sets of others. The mentoring and encouragement provided during the two-day exercise was immensely valuable. The students were able to learn technical skills, and even more importantly, have conversations about the importance of this work and the opportunities available.”

“This was a great opportunity to meet and collaborate with other cybersecurity colleagues from here in Hawaiʻi, the mainland and Japan. This year’s Poʻoihe is the best yet—eagerly looking forward to next year,” stated Reynold Hioki, State of Hawaiʻi cybersecurity coordinator.

The exercise utilized the University of Hawaiʻi cyber range and challenges were developed by University of Hawaiʻi students, staff, and military, Department of Defense and industry professionals.

Special recognition

Exercise organizers recognized the support and sponsorship of Optiv, Hawaiian Telcom, Lockheed Martin, Integrated Security Technologies, Referentia and UNISYS. UNISYS successfully deployed their STEALTH technology as one of the exercise challenges.