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NEWS | April 24, 2024

Cyber Recon 2024 Recognizes Excellence, Fosters Collaboration

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — U.S. Cyber Command hosted the second CyberRECon Symposium that showcased groundbreaking developments in cybersecurity and intelligence analysis with academic minds from around the country converging at the U.S. Naval Academy’s Alumni Hall to tackle some of the nation's toughest cyber challenges, April 17-18.

The Cyber Research and Education Conference, or “CyberRECon” is the flagship program for USCYBERCOM’s office of academic engagements. CyberRECon challenges teams to tackle some of USCYBERCOM’s key mission challenges by partnering with colleges and universities to share research and provide technical mentorships as student teams develop original research on real-world problems facing our nation today.

At the heart of the symposium's annual gathering, Rear Admiral Dennis Velez, director of Plans and Policy at USCYBERCOM, emphasized the strategic significance of the event.

"CyberRECon is a USCYBERCOM program to engage with academic institutions long-term and provide hard questions and hard problems to all these institutions," Velez said. "The goal is that as we engage the broad spectrum of academia in our country, we will get real solutions that are able to be implemented in the command at large."

Teams from 17 schools participated in this year’s CyberRECon in an on-going effort to foster a robust collaboration between military and academic spheres to ensure the nation's cyber defenses remain at the forefront of robust in the face of emerging threats. The teams worked on projects that were binned into one of four categories, each with its own award: the Hunter Award - research with offensive Cyberspace Operations applications, the Analyst Award - research focused on threat actors or intelligence analysis methodologies, the Guardian Award - research with defensive Cyberspace Operations applications, and the Strategist Award - research focused on Cyber Policy and strategy. In addition to the four category awards, one team was awarded the “best in show,” the coveted Commander’s Cup.

Dr. Irfan Ahmed, associate professor, Department of Computer Science, College of Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University shared insights from his work at the Security and Forensics Engineering (SAFE) Lab being conducted at VCU.

"The SAFE Lab's job is to develop cybersecurity solutions to detect, prevent, or forensically investigate attacks on critical infrastructure," Dr. Ahmed explained, underlining the real-world applications of their findings.

One of Dr. Ahmed’s researchers, postdoctoral researcher Wooycon Jo, discussed the “NAZAR Project,” the Commander’s Cup winning project his team developed.

"NAZAR is a comprehensive monitoring system that consists of two parts, one at the network level and one the device level, to monitor if there is any malicious activity on the control logic," Jo stated. He noted the importance of this research in combating the evolving threats to industrial control systems, which have been a target since the Stuxnet incident in 2010.

As the symposium concluded, the commitment to expanding this crucial dialogue was clear, setting an ambitious goal to involve all 126 partner institutions in future gatherings, a testament to the growing importance of cybersecurity in national defense strategies.

CyberRECon is designed to enhance the command’s ability to foster innovation and research on critical mission problems and to engage students and faculty in order to inspire service in the DOD cyber cadre, both military and civilian. The program also aims to better coordinate Command HQ and Cyber Component academic engagements as to ensure the Cyber Mission Force is engaged with a diverse set of institutions, both federal and non-federal, and is focused on high-value outcomes.

For more information on USCYBERCOM and CyberRECon, visit: