HOOVER, Ala. – Today, the U.S. Secret Service announced the Columbia, S.C. team as the winner of the National Computer Forensics Institute’s (NCFI) “Cyber Games” competition. During the competition, teams of NCFI-trained local law enforcement officials worked with Secret Service investigators as integrated incident response units to solve a simulated cyberattack using the specialized training received at the institute.
The Columbia, S.C. team was comprised of representatives from the Secret Service, the 125th Cyber Protection Battalion for the South Carolina Army National Guard, the FBI Columbia field office, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department. This federal and state integrated team completed all 39 objectives of the challenge in a combined time of six hours and 15 minutes over three days of competition.
During an introductory week of preparation and training, participants gathered in Hoover, Ala. from Oct. 11-15 where they refreshed their knowledge with NCFI and industry expert instructors, provided details from successful investigations from fellow local law enforcement officers, and had the opportunity to hear from Secret Service and FBI leadership on the value of the partnership that exists between federal agencies and state and local investigators.
Beginning Oct. 18, participants were presented with the simulated scenario of a ransomware attack on a hospital, and charged with executing a series of technical actions to disrupt and hunt the cyber threat actors. The teams were stationed across the country within Secret Service field office locations for the competition and charged with objectives to recover and examine network evidence in an immersive virtual ransomware investigation experience. Investigators located indicators of network compromise while applying investigation and law enforcement best practices in the gaming environment designed by NCFI staff and contractors.
“One of the hallmarks of our success as an agency in investigating complex criminal activity in cyberspace is our law enforcement partnerships that span the entire country,” said Secret Service Office of Investigations Assistant Director Jeremy Sheridan. “I am grateful to and proud of the integrated federal and state teams who participated in standing with us in this important and ever critical fight, and remain thankful for our partners in Alabama and especially the City of Hoover who continue to make these efforts possible by hosting the NCFI facility.”
The NCFI is an award winning designed, 35,000 square foot facility located in Hoover, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham. The NCFI boasts six cyber investigation classrooms, a mock courtroom, server rooms, administrative work areas and collaborative spaces to support the digital recovery and analysis training. The style, capabilities and technological features in the classrooms are distinct from any within the Federal government.
In March of 2007, United States Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff came to Hoover to announce the founding of the NCFI for the purpose of providing cyber training and equipment to state and local law enforcement nationwide.
“The impact these state and local graduates make is tremendous. In FY 2021, digital media recovery and analysis by NCFI grads in criminal investigations was at an all-time high. Examiners reported almost 122,000 exams and analyzed more than 19 petabytes of data from servers, computers, smart phones and IOT devices. More than 40% of exams reported involved violent crime investigations, to include homicide, robbery, rape, and child exploitation,” said NCFI Director and Special Agent in Charge Ben Bass. “In the absence of NCFI-provided training and equipment, many state and local agencies would have to rely on federal partner agencies for assistance in digital forensics exams required in their criminal investigations. NCFI training and equipment empowers graduates’ agencies with the capability to conduct their own digital evidence examinations and network incident response to ransomware attacks. We are honored to work side by side with our law enforcement partners here at the NCFI to protect their communities.”
Since opening May 19, 2008, the NCFI has trained over 16,500 state and local police officials, prosecutors and judges from all 50 states and five U.S. territories. NCFI graduates represent over 2,500 agencies nationwide and form the backbone of the Secret Service’s Cyber Task Forces.
To apply for NCFI training, please contact your local Secret Service field office for details https://www.secretservice.gov/contact/field-offices.