Digital defense dynasty
University of Central Florida is NCCDC cyber champ for third straight year
In a cyber defense competition, seconds count and the pressure runs high.
The competition was so intense at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition championship in San Antonio, one student checked his pulse and found his heart pounding away at over 100 beats per minute.
"They cram about a month's worth of IT work into a weekend," said his coach, Dr. Tom Nedorost of the University of Central Florida. "That's really too much for any team, no matter how good you are."
Luckily, it wasn't too much for that student with the racing heart, or his team. For the third consecutive year, University of Central Florida won NCCDC, an annual competition presented by Raytheon, in which more than 1,000 students from colleges across the country test their ability to protect a network against cyber threats.
"We didn't come in with the expectation of winning; we came in expecting to learn and have fun," said Jonathan Lundstrom, Central Florida's team captain. "If we win, fantastic. If we don't, then we had a great time, picked up new skills, saw a lot of great things and met a lot of great people."
The University of Central Florida ran neck and neck with Brigham Young University for most of the championship, calling it anybody's game, according to NCCDC director Dwayne Williams. The BYU team was very poised, focused and enthusiastic, he said, adding they broke up the tension by conducting sing-a-longs and dancing the Macarena.
But in the end, "Central Florida's experience really made the difference," Williams said. "They've been there and done that. They knew the tips and tricks and despite losing five seniors, they did a great job passing down knowledge to the new recruits."
Raytheon is bringing the winning UCF team to Washington, D.C., July 26-28, to tour some of our nation's top research and national security cyber sites.
After University of Central Florida 's top finish, Brigham Young University placed second and DePaul University placed third.
The 10 schools that competed at the championship were:
- University of Alaska Anchorage, At-Large Regional CCDC Winner
- Liberty University, Mid-Atlantic Regional Winner
- DePaul University, Mid-West Regional Winner
- Dakota State University, North Central Regional Winner
- Northeastern University, Northeast Regional Winner
- Columbia Basin College, Pacific Rim Regional Winner
- Brigham Young University, Rocky Mountain Regional Winner
- University of Central Florida, Southeast Regional Winner
- University of Tulsa, Southwest Regional Winner
- Cal Poly Pomona, Western Regional CCDC Winner
For the final round of competition, each team acted as the information technology department for a small business, such as an online pharmacy, retailer or other net-dependent company. They attempted to keep their businesses running while fending off cyber-attacks from 20 penetration professionals and white hat hackers — the so-called "Red Team."
Williams said they threw a new wrinkle into this year's competition: — insider threats. The scenario included a group of disgruntled former system administrators who wiped out services and accounts as they were being escorted out the door.
"The students not only had to fix everything that these employees wrecked, but then they had to worry about back doors that they might've installed so they could break back in and wreak more havoc," Williams said.
Students who compete in NCCDC are learning skills that will be invaluable when they join the workforce, according to Williams. The skills they learn in the competition — responding to business needs, defending against attacks and keeping the business safe and running — are the same skills they'll be using on the job.
"As global networks face nearly constant attack, NCCDC is a perfect extension of Raytheon's global Cyber Academy initiative, helping to develop the next generation of cyber defenders," said David Wajsgras, president of Raytheon's Intelligence, Information and Services business. "Congratulations to the three-time champion University of Central Florida."
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