Student Competitions

Dakota State Tops Cyber League Ranking

Students from Dakota State University, in Madison, SD, led the rankings of the National Cyber League (NCL), a virtual training ground where college students can develop their cybersecurity skills and test them against each other. For the 2014 regular season, Andrew Kramer and Alexander Gartner came in first and second, respectively, and their institution took the "gold bracket" in postseason team play. Coming in third place was Eric Kotake from Honolulu Community College. Postseason second and third place teams came from Liberty University (VA) and DePaul University in Chicago. The top "intermediate" team was Jacksonville University; the top "novice" team was Texas A&M University Corpus Christi.

The NCL offers resources such as lab exercises, practice challenges and puzzles to instructors in cybersecurity courses to help them integrate NCL activities into their classroom for free. Topics include network traffic analysis, scanning and reconnaissance, and password cracking, among others. The exercises and games participants do are developed, maintained and run by faculty volunteers. However, players kick in $20 to participate in the individual activities; teams pay $25.

The "regular" season allows students to work individually; "postseason" puts them into teams to solve real-world problems under deadlines and burdened by technical and resource constraints. This year's regular season games drew 1,368 participants; the post-season events had 86 teams.

The games in the events follow learning objectives that align to the preparatory lab exercises in order to measure an individual student's areas of strength and weakness. In fact, students receive a personalized "scouting report," which is also made available to hiring organizations.

"I was able to use the NCL as an assignment last fall in my undergraduate security course," said Mark Shaneck, online department chair for cyber security at Liberty University in a prepared statement. "It was a great opportunity for the students to be able to not only use these exercises to learn a lot about security and cryptography, but also to exercise their skills alongside students from across the country. Competing on a national scale, with upwards of 1,000 students, can not only validate what the students have worked hard to learn but also show what areas are lacking and could use more help."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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