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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Cybersecurity is a top concern for the U.S. Army as it modernizes its networks in accord with its modernization priorities. The Army Futures Command is driving what the future network will be.

To help understand the challenges associated with keeping future networks secure, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command's Army Research Laboratory, the Army's corporate research laboratory, with support from the University of Texas at El Paso and forensic analysts from the FBI hosted a malware analysis hackathon in Texas, May 3.

The ARL South Cyber Rapid Innovation Group, or CyberRIG, led by Dr. Jaime Acosta, from ARL's South region and Dr. Salamah Salamah, associate professor and director of software engineering at UTEP's computer science department, hosted 38 student competitors during the event.

"The CyberRIG consists of top-notch students and professionals that have a passion for cyber security and who seek to make a difference in the cyber security community," Acosta said. "We focus on rapid innovation research and development that will ensure readiness for the warfighter of the future."

In addition to solving multiple challenging malware analysis problems during the hackathon, participants produced several decoders for modern-day remote access Trojan malware, which Acosta said will be used by ARL researchers to advance autonomous active defense protections for systems on the tactical edge.

When Alberto Morales, a graduate student at UTEP was asked how this event helped prepare him for the future, he said, "Being in this particular field, one comes to find that the opportunities to test your skills or to gain new ones that are applicable to real world scenarios are few and far between. I plan to not only utilize the skills I learned from this event in my future career, but to also leverage the valuable insight gained from interacting with the professionals that hosted the hackathon."

Participants were judged by a panel of experts in the area of cyber security including FBI cyber squad professionals, to include the special agent in charge and eight squad members, UTEP faculty, Sandia National Laboratories personnel and a representative from the El Paso startup GreyBox Security.

"The success of this event makes it clear that these types of rapid innovation activities are a great way to gather students and experts alike; to solve critical issues in an efficient and collaborative way," Acosta said. "We plan to continue using this model to enhance cyber security research that will ready the Soldier of the future."


The CCDC Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command. As the Army's corporate research laboratory, ARL discovers, innovates and transitions science and technology to ensure dominant strategic land power. Through collaboration across the command's core technical competencies, CCDC leads in the discovery, development and delivery of the technology-based capabilities required to make Soldiers more lethal to win our Nation's wars and come home safely. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.

Related Links:

U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command

Army Research Laboratory

Army Futures Command

Army Modernization