In Grand Rapids, Peters Joins “Capture the Flag” Competition with College Students and Cybersecurity Professionals; Highlights Recent Efforts to Bolster Cyber Defenses

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, joined a “Capture the Flag” event where cyber professionals and students from Davenport University’s cybersecurity program competed in real world cybersecurity activities and challenges. Following the competition, Peters was joined by West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology President and CEO, Jamon Alexander, West Michigan Cyber Security Consortium President Abraham Jones, and The Right Place Inc.’s Technology Council Executive Director, Jen Wangler to highlight the importance of building a qualified cybersecurity workforce. Peters also discussed his recent efforts to address cybersecurity threats that continue to disrupt critical infrastructure, harm small businesses, and compromise the personal information of Michiganders and Americans.

“I was pleased to join students from Davenport University and cybersecurity professionals as they demonstrated why building a pipeline of qualified workers is critical to addressing online threats. Cyber-attacks are one of the most significant threats to our national and economic security, and anyone from the government to major corporations to critical infrastructure operators could be targets. Programs like the one we saw today will help ensure that Michigan has qualified workers who are ready to safeguard these critical information technology systems.” said Senator Peters. “As Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I’ll continue leading efforts to improve our nation’s cybersecurity and hold attackers accountable for targeting American networks.”

“It was an honor to welcome Senator Peters today, and demonstrate how our organization is providing equitable access to new opportunities for professionals and students of all ages,” said Jamon Alexander, President + CEO of West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT). “We’re excited to partner on programs like today’s “Capture the Flag” event that helps build the tech talent pipeline through training opportunities in highly demanded cybersecurity expertise. I’m grateful to Senator Peters for his leadership in elevating the importance of cybersecurity at the national level. We look forward to continuing to work with him on connecting people of all ages to opportunity pathways in tech.”

“Thanks to Senator Peters and all of our participants for making today’s challenge such a success. Our organization is dedicated to building a pipeline of talented cybersecurity professionals who are not only prepared for today’s challenges – but can anticipate and address the cybersecurity threats of the future,” said Abraham Jones, President of West Michigan Cyber Security Consortium. “I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Peters on his efforts to strengthen our cybersecurity defenses and address this serious threat that can shut down critical services and compromise personal information.”

“Today’s competition showed exactly how West Michigan is working to grow the highly-skilled workforce needed to take on the serious cybersecurity challenges facing everything from our most important industries to our national defense,” said Jen Wangler, Technology Council Executive Director of The Right Place Inc., an economic development agency based in Grand Rapids. “I’m grateful to Senator Peters for his leadership to ensure the federal government is providing important resources, tools and information to help prevent serious attacks – and also help businesses recover when they are hit by an attack. I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure businesses of all sizes are able to secure their networks.”

During the “Capture the Flag” event, participants simulated an attempt to hack into a vulnerable web application to find hidden “flags.” The victor of the competition was the team that acquired the most “flags” by the end. Peters was able to observe the students’ work, which demonstrated how malicious hackers are able to exploit network weaknesses. Peters and the students also discussed their plans to enter the cybersecurity workforce after graduating.

As Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has led efforts to increase our nation’s cybersecurity defenses. Peters’ bill to enhance cybersecurity assistance to K-12 educational institutions across the country was recently signed into law. His provision to provide staffing for the National Cyber Director’s office to improve cybersecurity policy was signed into law as a part of the annual defense bill. The senator secured several provisions in the bipartisan infrastructure law to bolster cybersecurity – including $100 million fund to help victims of a serious attack recover quickly. Peters’ bills to bolster federal cybersecurity and require critical infrastructure owners and operators to report to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency if they experience a cyber-attack have advanced in the Senate. Peters’ legislation to help recruit, develop and retain highly-skilled cybersecurity professionals in the federal workforce has passed the Senate.