Giant computer wall helps EVCC students to prevent worldwide cyber attacks

EVERETT, Wash. — In an age of dangerous ransomware attacks, Everett Community College is leading the way against hackers in the form of a mega-machine called “The Wall.”

Hot-headed hackers are in store for a harsh message: “The Wall” means you should be very, very worried.

“We’re just trying to protect our way of life, pretty much,” said EVCC student Chris Von Reybyton.

Not a day seems to go by when yet another cyber-attack doesn’t make the news.

As a result, EVCC technology instructor Dennis Skarr saw both an opportunity and sky-rocketing demand.

“We need more professionals that understand what skills are required to adequately secure this environment,” Skarr told KIRO 7 News.

He decided that Everett Community College would become a training ground on dealing with cyber-attacks.

His method? “The Wall,” a giant platform of networks and systems that allows people to simulate real-world cyber-crimes on critical infrastructure like water systems and energy grids.

Skarr managed to secure more than $1 million in grants and funding to bring “The Wall” to campus.

“We have (similar) devices in our water systems, electrical systems, advanced manufacturing, hospitals, it can go on and on and on,” he said.

That was in February 2021.

A year later, EVCC is still the only community college in the country with this technology.

In the process-- eager students like Chris Von Reybyton and Brian Cocking joined in.

“Oh, I was so ready to jump in and physically hack something,” exclaimed Von Reybyton.

“It’s one thing to read something. It’s another to apply it,” added Cocking .

On the day KIRO 7 visited “The Wall,” Skarr and his students orchestrated a mock cyber-attack against a town’s water supply.

In this revved up game of role play, students like Von Reybyton and Cocking mimicked both the attackers and the unassuming victims.

“The water should be off right now, and it’s still going,” observed Von Reybyton.

The novelty of this nifty device hasn’t been lost on anyone.

Currently, Washington’s National Guard plans to use “The Wall” for training.

Additionally, similar offers have poured in from several Western Washington cities.

“Being able to go through “The Wall” and bring (infrastructure) down with a simple command, it was just a ‘wow’ moment,” exclaimed Cocking.

“We spark that passion and curiosity with this equipment and put them on the path to understand the complication of that problem,” added Skarr.

“The Wall:” A 6-by-15 foot fortress of challenge and discovery; all to keep families and people safe from cyber criminals across the United States.