Lee’s Summit middle school students named national finalists in anti-hacking competition

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LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- If America wants to defends itself against hackers from Russia or other nations they may want to enlist the help of some Lee’s Summit Middle School students.

The team from Summit Lakes Middle School found out Wednesday they are one of just two middle schools in the nation that will go to the CyberPatriot National Finals.

Cybercrimes cost companies worldwide an estimated $600 billion per year. But the young cybercrime fighters are coming up with solutions.

“The most important thing more than anything else is educate your employees you can’t manage from top down, you have to manage from bottom up,” Tommy Cuezze, 13, said.

They are tips the team has learned from their computer science teacher in their first year in the CyberPatriot competition.

“We gain points by securing different things, and there have been times we’ve lost points and we hear this really bad alarm sound and it scares us a little,” seventh grader Ethan McFarland said.

But the team known as Error 37 doesn’t make many mistakes. They beat out 550 schools nationwide to earn their spot in the national finals, where they will find vulnerabilities and flaws in corporate operating systems.

“They’ll send an email that looks like it’s from a real company and one character is changed, and you click on the link and suddenly you have a virus on your computer. That’s what we go in and fix, protecting you from ever getting that virus,” Cuezze said.

They learn plenty of math, science, engineering and technology along the way. Even if they don’t come out on top in the April competing in Baltimore, most of these seventh and eighth graders already are well on their way to careers in cybersecurity.

"Because the future protectors of America need to know what they are doing before they even come into the college level,” McFarland said.