Cyber Defense Team
Northern Kentucky University College of Informatics students won 3rd place (out of around 50 teams) at this year’s Midwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, hosted by the Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance (CSSIA) at Moraine Valley Community College at Chicago from March 22 to March 23.
This year the team competed in the US's largest region (due to the region reorganization) in terms of the number of teams. We had two rounds of competitions: state level competition in February and regional level competition in March. Midwest region consists of 9 states which include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
The NKU team included students Shawn Banta, Josh Bemerer, Sean Benson, Lee Epling, Connor Gerome, Brandon Hinkel, Jack Lannon, and Brandon Warner. The team has been preparing for this every Friday night for about three hours since late September last year, doing everything from communication sessions to hands-on trainings to full-blown simulations.
The competition tested students' skills in defending computer and network systems. Students defended a corporate style network that was under sustained attack, while trying to accomplish business tasks. The performance of each team was based on three categories: how well the team defended the network and fixed system vulnerabilities, how well the team kept critical business services running under attacks, and how well the team finished business tasks. Although technical skills were important, skills in project and team management were also crucial for the success.
Team alums Kevin Childers and Ty Braunwart worked with the team advisor Dr. Yi Hu to set up virtual machine servers and networks for trainings. They utilized the state-of-art facilities of Griffin Hall’s Hardware and Virtualization Labs to replicate the competition environment. The trainings culminated in a few intensive full-day simulation sessions before the competition. During these session, the team worked hard to defend their network and services.
This year’s cyber defense trip was sponsored by the Center for Applied Informatics at NKU (CAI), CISCO, and CBTS. CAI also helped organize several regional security conferences and sponsored the team in the past years. In addition, NKU’s College of Informatics worked with external sponsors and other local companies on several computer security initiatives.
Computer security is one of the research strengths of NKU’s Computer Science Department. NKU is currently applying for designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAE/IAE), sponsored by National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. NKU’s team defeated many teams that are from universities that already have CAE/IAE such as University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and Davenport University.
NKU’s Department of Computer Science has actively engaged students in an array of security exercises. For example, last year the cyber defense team participated in several national and international defensive and offensive computer security competitions such as Cyber Challenge 2012, Stripe Capture The Flag competition, CSAW Capture The Flag competition, PoliCTF and defeated many prestigious universities. In addition, NKU is planning to host a variety of computer security competitions and high school network security camps in the future, utilizing Griffin Hall’s technologically advanced facilities.