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Helena duo wins DC3 Prize

2010-12-02T00:00:00Z 2010-12-02T00:15:54Z Helena duo wins DC3 PrizeBy ALLISON MAIER Independent Record Helena Independent Record
December 02, 2010 12:00 am  • 

They entered the competition late in the game, but Robin Jackson and Ed Williams were pretty confident about their chances. Though they are state employees by day, their spare time is spent in cyberspace, acting as ethical computer hackers. Or, for those familiar with the terminology, as “white hats” — the good guys of the cyber world.

That experience, and about 360 hours of work, landed them first- and third-place rankings in this year’s international Digital Forensics Challenge, an Internet-based competition through which teams or individuals rack up points by uncovering information hidden within the digital recesses of computers. The annual contest, which started in 2006, is organized through the Department of Defense’s Cyber Crime Center, an agency that works to analyze data from electronic devices to aid in investigations related to everything from criminal matters to counterintelligence efforts.

Though competition participants are given a year to work through the challenges, Jackson and Williams only learned about it with two months to spare. So they got to work, spending several hours a day problem-solving and swapping ideas, either in person or through a shared folder they could both access online. They relied on the knowledge they’d acquired from decades working on computers, along with some free tools and information available over the Internet.

“Google is wonderful,” Jackson said.

That 66-day hacking spree earned them a total of 1,470 points from the judges — about 150 points short of where they predicted they’d be. That ranked them in first place among 29 teams from the United States and third place out of all 71 participating teams from across the globe, falling behind a couple of entries from South Korea.

The Montana duo’s high placements earned them two different awards — the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants’ Civilian Prize and the coveted DC3 Prize, which grants them a trip to the Department of Defense’s 2011 Cyber Crime Conference.

When Jackson and William got the news Wednesday, they had a hard time believing it.

“It kind of blew our minds, actually,” Jackson said.

He said it could heighten their credibility among the network of computer hackers they’re in regular contact with.

“I think we just went up a level in the community,” he said.

Jackson, a bureau chief for the state Department of Labor and Industry’s Employment Relations division, and Williams, a programmer for the department, had been friends prior to their decision to enter the competition, often doing “hacker stuff” together. They named their team Williams Twins Forensics, after Williams’ daughters.

The tasks they faced through the course of the competition fell into five different levels of difficulty. The easiest included the likes of finding files that had been deleted or tracking down the original names of files. The hardest involved writing programming code to acquire specified information off a computer.

With the 2011 round of the Digital Forensics Challenge starting in a couple of weeks, Jackson and Williams are gearing up for another go. This time, they’re hoping to get help from some other experts. Jackson thinks they have a shot at beating the South Koreans.

When they’re not playing the game, Jackson and Williams work to combat issues caused by hackers with harmful intentions — individuals creating computer viruses or altering websites. They view current events, like the recent WikiLeaks scandal and its aftermath, through their computers, constantly communicating with others in the cyber world. And they’ve formed some strong opinions, speaking of generational differences between younger hackers and themselves. Jackson, for example, is skeptical of those who would release government secrets.

It’s an issue he can continue discussing with like-minded individuals. He and Williams meet regularly with other computer whizzes in the area, often at the Staggering Ox, and conduct business even when they aren’t traveling with laptops.

“I’m talking to hackers right now,” Jackson said, staring down at his Android phone.

Reporter Allison Maier: 447-4075 or

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. kdiaz
    Report Abuse
    kdiaz - December 02, 2010 10:17 pm
    Ahhh I miss ya Ed. Way to go buddy!
  2. nemontfarmers
    Report Abuse
    nemontfarmers - December 02, 2010 8:27 pm
    Hey, that's my Dad!!! So proud.
  3. cephurs
    Report Abuse
    cephurs - December 02, 2010 6:47 pm
    caffeine said: "Ed? Ed WILLIAMS? That guy owes me twenty bucks!"

    Ed here. The check is in the mail. Meanwhile, I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!

    Also, it was pointed out to me that if you visit the DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE'S DC3 Challenge Winner's Circle website at you should notice that 'Williams Twins Forensics' is listed twice, once under the International category taking the Civilian Prize from the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) and again under U.S. with top honors. So next year the only thing we are missing is Grand Champion Overall bragging rights.

    tldr; Every category we were eligible to win, we won.

    Ed Williams
    406 410-0832
  4. The Big L
    Report Abuse
    The Big L - December 02, 2010 3:35 pm
    Other than the rights that were given to you solely because you were born here, what about this country do love GPAC. All I ever see you doing is complaining about America. There is no lock on the exit.
  5. caffeine
    Report Abuse
    caffeine - December 02, 2010 12:48 pm
    Ed? Ed WILLIAMS? That guy owes me twenty bucks!
  6. GivePeaceAChance
    Report Abuse
    GivePeaceAChance - December 02, 2010 10:41 am
    Good job, guys. Work hard and someday you could be like my heroes, Julian Assange, Pvt. Bradley Manning and Wikileaks.
  7. ryandelasiesta
    Report Abuse
    ryandelasiesta - December 02, 2010 9:25 am
    OMG! I know these guys!
  8. chrisread
    Report Abuse
    chrisread - December 02, 2010 7:58 am
    Yeah team! Way to such a short time! 5^
  9. cephurs
    Report Abuse
    cephurs - December 02, 2010 1:32 am

    1,000 teams approved to play

    We welcome our 1,000th team to the 2010 DC3 Challenge, Team Dynamite! With over 600 U.S. teams and less than 400 international teams, we thank all teams that have registered and are playing. Make sure to check out the press page for the most recent articles about the DC3 Challenge.


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