The Cambrian

Cybersecurity team from Coast Union High wins California Mayors Cyber Cup

Coast Union’s cybersecurity team scored higher than 31 other high school teams in the “Mayor’s Cup” competition. From left: Jonathan Jewel, Trent Ferguson, Caiden Kennedy and Luis Plascencia. Fernando Sepulveda was not pictured.
Coast Union’s cybersecurity team scored higher than 31 other high school teams in the “Mayor’s Cup” competition. From left: Jonathan Jewel, Trent Ferguson, Caiden Kennedy and Luis Plascencia. Fernando Sepulveda was not pictured. Courtesy photo

Coast Union High School’s cybersecurity team struck gold Saturday, Feb. 23, in the California Mayor Cyber Cup.

Coast Union outscored 32 other regional high schools to qualify for the California Cyber Innovation Challenge in June at Cal Poly — which tests teams on a “forensics and networking challenge” of digital technologies over a two-day period.

Coast Union’s team of Luis Plascencia, Trent Ferguson, Caiden Kennedy, Jonathan Jewel and Fernando Sepulveda outscored high schools from the counties of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Northern Los Angeles.

Henry Danielson, director of technology for Coast Unified School District, noted that the Cambria campus “is the only local high school that competed in the California Mayors Cyber Cup. We are so proud of our students. CUHS is preparing a small amount of students to be the next generation cyber-protection team.”

“I’m so passionate about getting young people into these cyber careers,” Danielson, who mentors the team, added.

The win is “a pretty huge accomplishment,” said Ayen Johnson, cyber coach and instructor at Coast Union and Santa Lucia Middle School. The team’s work was conducted remotely from Johnson’s classroom.

Johnson’s team was confronted with — and asked to thwart — remote users attempting to decrypt passwords. They also had to scan for malware and viruses, turn off ports that were open to unauthorized users, solve puzzles and ciphers; and find hidden files that were encrypted in binary (Base64 or hashes).

Coast Union is offering the cybersecurity students a chance to gain expertise on ways to combat hackers and other criminals who attack computers and servers and invade the privacy of digital users.

Danielson said that, in accordance with Cyber Cup custom, he hopes the winning team soon will be able to present the cup trophy to Cambria’s honorary mayor Kim Maston, to be displayed in town until next year’s competition winner is determined. And who knows, he said with a chuckle, “maybe they’ll get to keep it for another year.”

Cambrian contributor John FitzRandolph contributed to this report.

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