Students Get Taste of Real-life Cyber Defense in National Championship

Texas A&M University looked to defend its National Champions title against five teams at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC) this weekend but lost out to Baker College of Flint, MI. The third-annual NCCDC was hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio's Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS), a cyber security education and research center.

Competition organizers cited Baker's focus on "fundamentals" for its victory in what it described as a "spirited" competition.

For the competition, each team was required to correct problems on their network, perform typical business tasks and defend their networks from a red team that generates live, hostile activity throughout the competition. The teams were scored on their performance in those three areas.

The CCDC program has grown from five schools in 2005 to 56 schools in 2008 with six regional competitions taking place nationwide. The 2008 national competition featured Baker College; the 2007 defending champions, Texas A&M; the Community College of Baltimore County; Mt. San Antonio College of Los Angeles County; Rochester Institute of Technology; and the University of Louisville. The participants advanced to the National CCDC after winning regional competitions.

The CCDC program is sponsored in part through donations from businesses in the communications and IT industries.

The competition allows teams of college students to apply their information assurance and information technology education in a competitive environment. The competitions focus on business operations and incorporate the operational aspect of managing and protecting an existing network infrastructure. The teams inherit an "operational" network from a fictional business complete with e-mail, Web sites, data files, and users.

"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 CIAS. "Some of the faculty even changed their instructional programs as a result of lessons learned from the competition."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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