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Chapter Focus: Charlotte, N.C.

In this space each quarter, we hope to share the initiatives that other InfraGard Chapters have been taking and the events that they’ve organized. This quarter, we spoke with Torry Crass of the InfraGard Charlotte Chapter to discuss their ongoing Cybercamps for high schoolers that are now approaching their third year, and which have been growing both in scope and success.

“The Cybercamps activities started in 2014,” Crass says. “They were very much initiated by Gary Gardner, who, at the time, was president of the Charlotte chapter. The idea behind the camp was to engage high-school students, grade 10-12, in some programs around Charlotte, to get them some exposure to cybersecurity and basically a little bit more-advanced information technology than what they otherwise might be exposed to.”

The valued students and just some of the representatives of the Charlotte Chapter who made the 2015 Cybercamp such a success.
The valued students and just some of the representatives of the Charlotte Chapter who made the 2015 Cybercamp such a success.

Partnering with local businesses as well as the FBI, the Charlotte Chapter sought to develop a weeklong event rich in concept and ideas to stimulate the minds of attendees — tomorrow’s potential front line in the war for cybersecurity. They constructed this year’s event’s curriculum with a specific scenario in mind, revolving around corporate espionage. The event was held July 27-31, 2015. “We put together several video clips to guide the scenario through the course of the week,” Crass explains. “Intermixed were a bunch of hands-on activities, and a bunch of socialization activities where the students were expected to interact with one another and with volunteers throughout the course of the week. That all culminated in a capture-the-flag contest at the end of the week, where the students needed to take the information that they’d gathered throughout the week, and just raw skill, in some cases, to answer questions — some of which were very technical in nature — and solve problems to get the correct answers to gain points.”

At the end of the week, deserving participants were recognized at an awards ceremony. “The parents came out for that,” Crass says. “The local SAC, John Strong was on hand to actually present the awards to the students.”

Other highlights of the weeklong event included a tour of the FBI facility in Charlotte and demonstrations in forensics and computer forensics, as well as a tour of the armory. “They got to see historic guns, like the old tommy guns and what not. I know that was a really big hit,” Crass says.

Also impressive was a planned scenario that served as the “capstone” of the event — a live takedown of a “suspect” involved in the operation that the students had helped to thwart. “At the end of the scenario, they go through all of this stuff through the course of the week. And the very last scene, they roll a video clip that shows a discussion between the suspects, and then one of them gets on the elevator of the actual building that the students are in, comes up in the elevator, exits the elevator, and then the FBI agents actually do a takedown on the suspect as he exits the elevator, in a live-action kind of way. It was a lot of fun.”

This year’s Cybercamp event is slated to take place in Charlotte July 25-29.

In addition to its Cybercamp for students initiative, the Charlotte Chapter has also taken a leadership position with regard to the threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons technology. “One of the big things that the Charlotte chapter has engaged in is the EMP Special Interest Group, at a local, regional and national level,” Crass explains. “Over the past two years, we’ve been party to the summits through webcasting, that take place in December. … Charlotte was the pilot for that the year before, so 2014, and did so again this year.

“This past January 20, we had an EMP-focused InfraGard meeting where Chuck Manto, the chairman of the EMP SIG came down to Charlotte and gave a presentation, which was then followed by a town hall panel discussion on critical, high-impact threats, like EMP,” Crass continues. “Essentially the audience members asked a panel of people involved in that space different questions.” Crass acknowledges the InfraGard Raleigh Chapter’s involvement in North Carolina’s reworking of its emergency preparedness policy to take the threat of EMP events into consideration.

Lastly, in addition to its usual slate of monthly meetings, Crass describes the chapter’s involvement in an FBI-led information security initiative. “The InfraGard chapter here helped host and facilitate that,” he says. “Our keynote speaker was Frank Abignale — subject of [the film] Catch Me If You Can. We had the one keynote and five or six additional formal speakers on top of impromptu presentations and other small side things that we did with them. But the big speakers coming out was a huge help.”

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The valued students and just some of the representatives of the Charlotte Chapter who made the 2015 Cybercamp such a success.
The valued students and just some of the representatives of the Charlotte Chapter who made the 2015 Cybercamp such a success.