Poolesville High School students crack codes in international cybersecurity competition

Team placed first among high schools internationally

Carolina Zarate and Umesh Padia still aren’t sure if their friend Chris Thompson got the birthday messages they sent him. When your friends are high school computer science whizzes, birthday wishes may not come in the form of a card, or an all-caps text. They’re encrypted on your Facebook wall, hidden messages that take an equally talented nerd to uncover.

In terms of equal talent, this trio is tough to beat. In December they won an international cybersecurity competition run by the U.S. Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center, placing first among high school teams internationally and first overall in Maryland, where they were up against college teams and cybersecurity professionals in a state that leads in the industry. PHS Injection, their team name, came in 12th place overall internationally, among 317 teams that included high school and college teams.

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