Student Competitions

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Over the next six weeks students from 180 American colleges and universities will be duking it out (virtually) in regional competitions to identify the top cyber-defender team. The 2015 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC) tests participants in how well they can protect computer networks against cyber threats comparable to the ones that are currently infecting the systems of corporations and social networks. The endeavor is sponsored by defense and security industry heavyweight Raytheon.

Starting later this week in Denver, teams will meet for the Rocky Mountain competition to kick off the season. Nearly every week after that additional regional events will take place in South Dakota, Alaska, Texas, New York and other states. The winners from each of those contests will meet for a national competition in San Antonio at the end of April.

In the contests student teams assume security duties for a commercial network, usually a small company with 50 or more users, seven to 10 servers and typical Internet services such as a Web server, mail server and e-commerce site. Each team starts with an identical set of hardware and software. It's scored on how well it detects and responds to outside threats while keeping services going and responding to business requests, such as the addition or removal of additional services. An automated scoring engine verifies the teams' services on a regular basis while traffic generators feed simulated data traffic into the network. External threats such as injects are introduced by a volunteer "red team," letting students pit their cyber-skills against live opponents.

"NCCDC helps students understand how cyber theory and curriculum can be applied to the real world," said Dwayne Williams, director of the competition. "Partners from DHS, Raytheon and other industry leaders enable us to continue reinforcing the importance of cybersecurity and engage even more students with the vast opportunities the field offers."

Last year the competition was won by the University of Central Florida. That team received a tour of Washington, D.C. and a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden.

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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