A team of students from Baker College (Mich.) won first place in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC), a cyber defense competition that lets teams of full-time college students apply their IT knowledge to business operations and work to protect an existing network infrastructure. 

The competition, hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS), featured six eight-member teams that were scored on their ability to operate and maintain a business network while under hostile cyber attack.

The teams inherited an "operational" network from a fictional business complete with eMail, web sites, data files, and users.  Teams had one hour to familiarize themselves with their respective networks before attacks from a red team that generated live, hostile activity throughout the competition.

Each team was required to correct problems on their network, perform typical business tasks, and defend their networks.  The teams were scored on their performance in those three areas, as well as on their ability to continue with normal functions during the red team’s attacks.

"We’ve competed in these collegiate cyber defense competitions for the last three years and have never made it passed the regional level," said Brandon Hladysh, Baker College team captain. "I’m really proud of my teammates, and they truly are the best of the best."

The NCCDC program lets teams of full-time college students from across the country apply their information assurance and information technology education in a competitive environment. 

"We had many visiting faculty members benefit from last year’s national competition as they experienced first-hand what it would be like to have to protect a company’s infrastructure in a hostile internet environment," said Greg White, director of UTSA’s CIAS. "Some of the faculty even changed their instructional programs as a result of lessons learned from the competition."

"For the first time ever, we had two, two-year colleges win their region and compete, so it was exciting to see them competing right along against the other four-year universities," said White.  "We’ve had three competitions with winners representing three different regions, so it’s good to see that there’s bright, sharp, computer-security-savvy individuals all over this country."

Representatives from company sponsors echoed those sentiments: The skills students used in the competition are the same skills employers consider essential in today’s marketplace.

"Tomorrow’s IT leaders need to understand not only networking’s best practices, but also be able to take emerging technologies and create new best practices," said Stephen Lawton, Acronis’ senior director of strategic marketing. 

"Up-and-coming network administrators and IT leaders are expanding their level of expertise and awareness at NCCDC.  [This event] helps prepare the students for what they will experience beyond the typical classroom setting, helping them reach their full potential," said Mike Yafee of Core Security.

Donated hardware and software from leaders in the IT industry were used during the competition to give students the opportunity to work with technologies they might not see in a typical classroom environment.

Fifty-six schools participated in the competition’s six regional competitions. Winners of the regional competitions, who advanced to the finals, included Baker College from the Midwest; Texas A&M from the Southwest; the University of Louisville from the Southeast; the Rochester Institute of Technology from the Northeast; the Community College of Baltimore County from the Mid-Atlantic; and Mt. San Antonio College of Los Angeles County from the West.

Baker College received an invitation from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to attend the March 2010 Cyber Storm III National Cyber Security Exercise in Washington, D.C.  Texas A&M University and the University of Louisville took second and third place honors in the competition, held April 18-20 at the Airport Hilton Hotel in San Antonio. 

The competition was sponsored in part through donations and volunteer support from organizations including the AT&T Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security, Cisco Systems, Core Security, and Acronis.

Links:

University of Texas at San Antonio’s Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security

National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition

Baker College

Texas A&M University

University of Louisville

Note to readers:

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