ESnet cybersecurity staff awarded the first-ever “ESNET”


Three members of the Energy Sciences Network’s Cybersecurity team – Michael Dopheide, Vlad Grigorescu, and Sam Oehlert – were recently honored with an Extra Special Noteworthy Exemplary Trophy Award for their SANS 2019 Holiday Hack Challenge entry.

“SANS is the premier security training organization for our profession. Their annual contest usually has 15,000-20,000 entries. For the past couple of years, our solutions have been used as the official answers and documentation, helping students and professionals around the world to hone their security skills. There is a real impact, and I am very proud of the team,” said Adam Slagell, Energy Sciences Network Chief Security Officer.

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From left to right: Michael Dopheide, Sam Oehlert, and Vlad Grigorescu

This eponymous award category called the “ESNET,” was created in reverence to the fact that all three team members asked to forgo any competition prizes. Instead, they asked that their prize be awarded to another winner.

“We felt that forgoing the prize was our small way of giving back to the community and rewarding one of the other participants, whose work should not be neglected. Honestly, this is something we look forward to every year. All three of us relish the puzzle-solving element, and our participation is really a labor of love,” said Grigorescu.  “We still felt it was important to share our report and the new techniques and tools for both offensive and defensive security we developed.”

The team notes that the SANS Holiday Hack competition is unique because the goal is to gamify cybersecurity challenges, all of which must be based on current threats. The end result is one of the best, most realistic security training, and it’s available for free, in perpetuity.

“By really pushing the envelope, we felt like we walked away from this year’s competition having significantly advanced our skills and being better able to safeguard the Energy Sciences Network. We’re incredibly honored to have an eponymous award, and to win the inaugural ‘ESNET’ award,” said Grigorescu.

This was Grigorescu’s fifth SANS Holiday Hack Competition and the fourth for Dopheide and Oehlert. All three were part of the Energy Sciences Network team that won the 2018 Grand Prize. Grigorescu’s teams also won an Honorable Mention in 2015, Best Technical Answer in 2016, and a Grand Prize in 2017.

Written by Linda Vu, Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences