HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — As technology progresses and more of our information is placed online, digital content faces greater cyber threats. The National Cyber Summit brought thousands of industry professionals and amateurs to pave the future of cyber security.

On Wednesday and Thursday, more than 100 competitors made up of students and computer specialists from around the country displayed a form of ethical hacking in the Cyber Cup Challenge. Ethical hacking and penetration testing are a major part of cyber security.

“You have to have permission,” said Huntsville High cyber student Aislinn Hamill. “Otherwise, it’s not ethical.”

Ethical hackers identify system weaknesses and security risks before someone with less ethical intentions can exploit them.

“It’s basically finding vulnerabilities for the betterment of the company or the website or such,” said Huntsville High cyber student Eva Aubel. “With express permission to do so.”

Over the two-day competition, the participants found their way through a series of online obstacles by playing a virtual game of capturing the flag. For each challenge completed and each ‘flag’ captured, the teams received points.

“They’ll find an open port, be able to work through the network, and find additional vulnerabilities that exist within the network,” said Sixgen Director of Mission Operations Micheal Slayton.

Eva Aubel, Aislinn Hamill, Hailey Holsonback, and Megan Quin are seniors at Huntsville High School. Their team of four is the youngest group to qualify for the final round of the competition where they competed against college teams from across the country.

Eva Aubel, Aislinn Hamill, Hailey Holsonback, and Megan Quin (from left to right) place fourth in the academic category in the Cyber Cup Challenge at the National Cyber Summit.

“For this week of competition, they’ve had five weeks of experience,” said Huntsville High School cyber security instructor Jim Morse.

The team members have taken several years of cyber-related classes at Huntsville High, but the class providing the information most pertinent to the competition began this semester for these students. Morse said he expects these students to achieve great things in the field of cyber security.

Aubel, Hamill, Holsonback, and Quin said they intend to pursue degrees relating to cyber security in college. The Huntsville High team placed fourth in the Cyber Cup Challenge in the academic category.