The value of Midwest cyber defense competition
If millions of computer users go online and Google is temporarily unavailable, it’s not good for business. If someone hacks into a stranger’s personal computer account, that’s potential for identity theft. That’s when cyber security specialists come to the rescue. The key to training those specialists in school is through competition.
More than 300 students compete in the Midwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions (CCDC) throughout February and March with the winning regional team testing its skills against eight other U.S. regions in the national competition every April. These events are improving every year, according to Dr. David Durkee, director of Competition Operations for Midwest CCDC, a.k.a. Mr. Competition.
“We have more than 40 teams from nine states competing in qualifying state competitions in 2013. Five years ago we had six states. We’re hosting the southwest and northeast regional competitions also because they have more participants than what they can handle in brick and mortar structures,” Durkee said. “It’s a growing affair. People are getting interested.”
Durkee also pointed out that if students put their participation in these competitions on their resumes, employers recognize and respect it. These competitions expose students to intense and realistic situations they could encounter in a job.
Competitions work like this. Professionals in the industry act as judges and “penetrators” (a.k.a. hackers). Student teams act as IT employees of a company who take instructions from the judges who act as the CEO. Meanwhile, the penetrators take advantage of vulnerabilities in the computer system and cause mischief. The student teams must secure the networked computer system while maintaining standard business functionality. The team to accomplish this task best wins. State team winners advance to regionals and the winner from each region goes to nationals.
The Midwest Regional CCDC will be hosted by the Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance (CSSIA) at Moraine Valley, March 22-23. This event will use Moraine Valley’s Virtualization Data Center, a one-of-a-kind cyber lab with 192 servers that students can virtually log onto for competitions. Teams will compete virtually or on campus. “We used to have one site where schools would come to compete. We’d set up in a school’s classrooms, and I’d build a network. It was hard because we had to do it after class. Then we hit on virtual environments, cyber stadiums,” Durkee said. “This is credited to Erich Spengler [director and principal investigator of CSSIA and Moraine Valley professor of computer integrated technologies] because he helped build a remotely accessible environment so schools can compete from their site and remote access in.”
In these tough economic times, the demand for IT competent employees is high. Unlike 15 years ago when a modicum of skills would garner a job, today people need a robust set of abilities. “The goal of the competitions is to promote rapid learning of skills. In the classroom, students only get vignettes, just little things they have to do. It’s like a mechanic who learns how to use a lift versus having to put it together,” Durkee said. “A lot of students, especially first timers, say they had no idea what this field was about until competition.”
Students are thrown in the fire at competitions. If a team struggles or hits a roadblock, the judges go in to help them figure out the problem. Despite the challenge, it’s beneficial. “We’re not going in and holding their hand. We treat it like a business. The manager wants to know when the cash register will be up and earning money again. In the real world, if a piece of equipment doesn’t work, like if Google is down for a couple hours, that’s not good,” Durkee said. “Students are shocked when they get in a competitive environment. Technology advances so quickly.”
Sometimes students have a better appreciation for what cyber security is all about. Durkee recalled, “I had a student tell me, ‘After the competition, I knew that’s what I wanted to do—be a security professional.’ Now he’ll be a scoring manager at an upcoming competition.”
Moraine Valley CSSIA student alumni land jobs
They all studied at Moraine Valley Community College where they earned a variety of certificates. Some earned Associate’s degrees and nearly all competed in cyber security competitions. Now, seven former Moraine Valley students from the college’s Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance (CSSIA) program work at DELL SecureWorks, a worldwide IT security services company.
John Hanson, Paul Jankowski, Kyle Leubscher, Nan Li, Carlos Marquez, Joe Mayer, and Ursula Radwanski either were or still are students at Moraine Valley. Collectively they’ve earned a variety of certifications and degrees including N+, CCNA and A+ certification. They all work in various departments at DELL from the firewall team to network engineering.
Although each person had their own path to a career at DELL, they cited the benefit of quality teachers, classes and competition to get them there. Marquez received an Associate in Applied Science—Internet Specialist, along with several certifications, after studying at Moraine Valley from 2005 to 2008. After graduating in 2008, he was hired at DELL in large part due to his participation in a CSSIA cyber defense competition. “The key was the competition, the exposure to people, teachers, employers, and schools such as DePaul and Illinois State universities. DELL was a big player in the competition,” he said. Mayer competed in 2008, helped with a competition in 2009 and from those experiences was hired by DELL in 2010.
For Radwanski, the key was connections and an internship. She received an Associate in Science in 2008 before being hired at DELL in 2011. In between she had help from Lou Balek, Moraine Valley information security specialist, to secure an internship with the Chicago Fire as an assistant IT manager. That experience in addition to earning a bachelor’s degree from Saint Xavier University aided her journey to DELL. And how does Radwanski feel in a field typically dominated by men? “Our company has never made me feel out of place; I’m not treated differently. There are not that many women in my area but many throughout the company,” she said.
Hanson has several certifications from Moraine Valley and continues to take classes while working at DELL. He participated in the competitions as a student and judge. “You really see how Moraine Valley stacks up to bigger schools like DePaul University. We measure up to them,” he said.
Li worked at the CSSIA competitions which along with earning a bachelor’s degree helped him secure his job. He is currently working on a master’s degree. Jankowski finished his studies at Moraine Valley in 2011 before being hired the following year while Leubscher studied at the college from 2006 to 2009 and was hired in 2010.
Each person mentioned the value of Moraine Valley teachers, highlighting Ricky Moore, associate professor of information technology; Erich Spengler, professor of computer integrated technologies and director and principal investigator of CSSIA; and Dr. John Sands, professor of information technology and co-principle investigator of CSSIA. In their classes students didn’t just read about situations, they were thrown into them. “John and Erich show you these things in the book and then say ‘now here’s real life.’ They go above and beyond the book,” Marquez said. Radwanski added, “Ricky’s LAN 101 class was the most inspiring moment. If not for him, I wouldn’t be here. He’s so passionate and makes you feel you can do anything. He shows where you can go. It’s crazy inspiring.”
Studying at Moraine Valley before pursuing a bachelor’s degree made them feel ahead of the curve. “Schools like Moraine Valley are like a pot of gold you don’t know about, but it’s great. It’s the best bang for your buck,” Marquez said. “All around, the curriculum is solid. The firewall classes I took and taught are almost the same scenarios as in reality.” Li even went so far as to say he could take naps in classes at the four-year university he transferred to because he was so ahead of the class thanks to his Moraine Valley studies. The common pattern in this field is earning a two-year degree along with certificates, getting experience in the work world and then getting paid by an employer to go back to school for a bachelor’s degree. Fortunately for them and future employees, DELL offers tuition reimbursement for continued education. Moraine Valley pushes for certifications, unlike most four-year universities, Radwanski said. The group agreed that you don’t need a degree to get these kind of technology-based jobs, but more degrees help these days. A degree is insurance.
Computer hackers can destroy a person or company’s identity, finances or livelihood. But properly trained individuals can protect those investments. One of the best places to find these qualified candidates is at the annual Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. Devised by the National Resource Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance (CSSIA), this regional event will be held March 16 at 1:30 p.m. and March 17 at 9 a.m. at Moraine Valley Community College, 9000 W. College Pkwy in Palos Hills, Ill.
This competition brings together student teams from Midwest colleges and universities to measure their ability to maintain secure computer network operations in a simulated business environment while a “hacker” team attempts to scan and map the network of each group, access security, capture and leave specific files on targeted devices, and penetrate the defensive capabilities of the network. Teams from DePaul University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Indiana Tech University, Baker College of Clinton Township, Century College, St. Cloud State University, Rhodes State College, and Milwaukee Area Technical College each won their state competition to advance to regionals.
Students will compete virtually or in-person using Moraine Valley’s Virtualization Data Center, a one-of-a-kind cyber lab with 192 servers. Since 2003, Moraine Valley has been the lead institution for CSSIA as a regional center for five states with a focus on curriculum development, outreach, and faculty development and mentoring. Participation in this intense competition gives students an advantage and opportunity for employment, a unique situation for those studying this field.
An important outcome of this event is job recruitment. Businesses are welcome to observe and interview cyber security candidates. “I see it every year, kids being offered a job on the spot,” said Bob Thomas, chief of information technology with FEMA Region V. “The students are given an opportunity to show off their skills, and employers are then given the opportunity to evaluate and recruit.”
All students who compete have their resumes ready and are prepared to interview at the event. Businesses are invited to set up a recruiting table on Friday, March 16 at 7 p.m. and join Deloitte and Touche, LLP, the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, US Army INSCOM Cyber Brigade, Department of Homeland Security, DELL SecureWorks and EC-Council to observe potential employees in action. At 9 p.m., employers will have an opportunity to discuss career options with students during CSSIA’s industry fair.
“The Midwest competition plays an important role in building the nation’s future cyber workforce,” said John Clark, partner with Deloitte and Touche, LLP. “The exercises are vital training for people who will be safeguarding the nation’s systems and infrastructure. Deloitte is committed to the development of a strong cyber workforce. Both government and industry are experiencing an acute shortage of people with cyber skills, and we recognize the need to both encourage and develop the top minds in this industry.”
To set up a table and participate in the CSSIA industry fair or for additional information, contact Ginny Swyndroski at (708) 974-5725 or email SwyndroskiV@morainevalley.edu.
As used in this document, “Deloitte” means Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries. Please see www.deloitte.com/us/about for a detailed description of the legal structure.
For news media inquiries, contact Maura Vizza, Moraine Valley public relations generalist, at (708) 974-5742 or email VizzaM@morainevalley.edu.
Only one application per team should be submitted, and only one team should compete from any given campus. Upon receipt, applicant teams will be contacted by your Midwest State CCDC Director for more detailed information. Again, no previous competition experience is needed. Click Here to Apply adding your team to the 2012 competition roster.
Competing teams are expected to pay a $500 entry fee for the 2012 Midwest State CCDC. All entry fees are collected on a state by state basis and remain within respective states to promote cyber competition activities.
State winners of the qualifiers are eligible to compete in the 2012 Midwest Regional CCDC at Moraine Valley Community College, March 16-17, 2012. There is no entry fee for the Midwest Regional CCDC, but teams travel to the event at their own expense
Modern-day demands of continuous technology advancements are what started the CCDC and participation gives students an advantage for the work force. “The competitions offer the students opportunities to do things they normally wouldn’t have the chance to in a class or lab setting,” said Dr. Gregory White, National CCDC director.
An important outcome is career recruitment. Businesses are welcome to observe and even interview top cyber security candidates. “I see it every year, kids being offered on the spot,” said Bob Thomas, chief of information technology with FEMA’s Region V. “The students are given an opportunity to show off their skills, and employers are then given the opportunity to evaluate and recruit.”
Students who participate in the CCDC are more prepared for the increasing employment demands in the cyber security industry. “When it comes to cyber- security, real world experience trumps certifications,” states Michael A. Davis, Chief Executive Officer for Savid Technologies, Inc., “The CCDC provides this experience, preparing students for the security issues they will face once in an organization.”
“The Midwest CCDC and National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions play an important role in building the nation’s future cyber workforce,” said John Clark, partner, Deloitte and Touche LLP. “The NCCDC exercises are vital training for people who will be safeguarding the nation’s systems and infrastructure. Deloitte is committed to the development of a strong cyber workforce. Both government and industry are experiencing an acute shortage of people with cyber skills and we recognize the need to both encourage and develop the top minds in this industry.”
The 2011 CCDC competitions thrived with the successful competition deployment of the CSSIA Virtualization Data Center (CVDC). The creation of this cyber lab started in spring of 2010 using various technologies to make it a systems- integrated network. After running several pilot tests in the fall of 2010 on the CVDC system, it was determined it would successfully withstand the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions. The CVDC allowed the competition to support more teams to compete virtually from any location.
“The CSSIA Virtualization Data Center performed admirably and enhanced the white team’s ability to maintain awareness. The setup for students went trouble-free and the scoring engine performed very well with the response time virtually instantaneous,” said Jeff Selvey, Project Engineer for the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, “The white team was able to spend less time organizing data and more time focusing on scoring decisions. We’d like to thank the Regional CCDC for allowing SPAWAR to participate in the event.”
The team of eight students took first place over teams from DePaul University, Southern Illinois University, Baldwin-Wallace College, Davenport University, St. Cloud State University, Alexandria Technical and Community College, and Waukesha County Technical College.
Indiana Tech’s Cyber Defense Team includes captain Lindsey Dohse (Cassopolis, Mich.), Jeremy Lemmel (Lanesville, Ind.), David Isaacs (Lanesville, Ind.), Matt Hart (LaPorte, Ind.), Geoffrey Ross (Fort Wayne, Ind.), Daniel Freer (St. Marys, Ohio), Kelie Bailey (South Whitley, Ind.), and Jacob Hapner (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
The competition is designed to test each team’s ability to secure a networked computer system while maintaining standard business functionality. Team members simulate a group of employees from an IT service company that will initiate administration of an IT infrastructure. The teams are expected to manage the computer network, keep it operational, and prevent unauthorized access. Teams are scored on the basis of their ability to detect and respond to outside threats, including cyber attack while maintaining availability of existing network services such as mail servers and web servers, respond to business requests such as the addition or removal of additional services, and balance security against varying business needs.
This is the second time Indiana Tech has qualified for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. The team placed 4th at nationals in 2007.
A year’s worth of preparation is making its way into reality as the Midwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions (CCDC) start this month. These competitions have been managed by the National Resource Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance (CSSIA) since 2006. The Cyber Exercise and Competition Industry Advisory Board (CIAB) started working on the competitions in April 2010.
Since the fall 2010, CSSIA has piloted events to test the resource center’s recent innovation, the CSSIA Virtualization Data Center (CVDC) based on NDG/NetLab and VMWare technology. Through successfully deployed cyber exercises and events, it has been determined CVDC can withstand the environment of the CCDC.
The CCDC competition is designed to test student teams’ abilities to secure a networked computer system while maintaining standard business functionality. This involves team members simulating a group of employees from an IT service company that will initiate administration of an IT infrastructure. Teams are expected to keep the system operational and prevent unauthorized access. Expectations of the teams are to maintain and provide public services: a secure website, e-mail server, database server, and a workstation used by simulated sales, marketing and research staff as per company policy and mission. Each team starts the competition with a set of identically configured systems.
The CCDC measures the student team’s ability to maintain secure computer network operations in a simulated business environment all while the Red Team (“hackers”) attempt to scan and map the network of each team, access security, capture and leave specific files on targeted devices, and penetrate the defensive capabilities of the network.
The top two winners of the state competitions will compete at the Regional CCDC, March 25-26 at Moraine Valley. The winning team from Regional CCDC will go the National CCDC hosted in San Antonio, Texas, April 8-10.
Each school will conduct the competition at their own sites with monitors from CSSIA.
Illinois: Feb. 19
State Director-Lou Balek, Moraine Valley Community College
Lake Land College Southern Illinois University, Carbondale DeVry University, Chicago University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign Illinois State University DePaul University Joliet Junior College
Michigan/Ohio: Feb. 26
State Director-James Lewis, Washtenaw Community College
State Director-Paul Burkholder, Rhodes State
Baker College of Flint Baker College of Clinton Township Davenport University Jackson Community College Western Michigan University Rhodes State College Owens Community College
Indiana/Wisconsin: March 12
State Director-Julie Mansfield, Indiana Tech
State Director-Mohsen Dorodchi, Madison Area Technical Center
Milwaukee Area Technical College Waukesha County Technical College Madison Area Technical College Blackhawk Technical College Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne
Ivy Tech, South Bend Ivy Tech, Fort Wayne
State Director-Firasat Kahn, Metro State
Alexandria Technical College Century College Inver Hills Community College Minneapolis Community and Technical College Minnesota State Community College, Detroit Lakes Minnesota State University, Mankato and Saint Cloud State University
New technologies such as virtualized labs are just some of the big changes that have taken place since CSSIA in the fall transitioned from a regional to a national resource center. During the Fall three major events were supported using the new technology.
Two Virtual National Invitational CCDC competitions were hosted by Moraine Valley Community College and California State Polytechnic University in September and November. Seven community colleges and universities competed together remotely using CSSIA’s Virtualization Data Center (CVDC) to maintain and secure virtualized company networks. Participants included colleges from Illinois, Maryland, Washington and California. The remote virtual competition environment proved to be very successful.
“Our new remote system is a fabulous improvement in how we offer cyber competitions,” said David Durkee, CSSIA’s director of competitions. “Instead of teams traveling to a host school, student teams are now able to compete directly from their own school by connecting to our new system. Managing the competitions is likewise easier so more students will be given the opportunity to compete.”
By holding cyber security competitions, students gain the experience and skills needed in technology and security. With this new center, other schools across the country can compete remotely in future competitions.
Another event using the CVDC was the Collegiate Cyber Exercise Event held in September at the University of Illinois Springfield, with students from across the state and members of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security in attendance. Illinois college students were able to expand their computer security knowledge through simulations of cyber attacks. This was a big test of the virtualized environment because all students logged in simultaneously and remotely to nearly 200 virtualized servers.
“The CSSIA resource center started just this Fall, so we pulled off some major events in just a few months,” said Erich Spengler, CSSIA principal investigator and professor of Computer Integrated Technologies. “These events were designed to push the limits of the remote virtual technology and lessons learned will support future research, development and deployment of skills events and learning environment models.”
The results of these three exercises have proven that the CSSIA Virtualization Data Center will successfully sustain CSSIA’s State and Regional CCDC’s starting in February 2011.
CSSIA is once again revamping its already successful cybersecurity competitions with the goal of preparing students at a high school level. CSSIA gathered 28 top administrators from community colleges and universities, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/FEMA, National Science Foundation, Cisco Networking Academy, CyberWatch Center, Networking Development Group, and SecureWorks Inc. to form a managing work group at the CyberSkills Competition Pathway Summit meeting in July. The meeting was hosted by CSSIA at Moraine Valley Community College, Palos Hills, Ill., with Jane Long, interim dean of Science, Business and Computing Technology, introducing and welcoming the members.
The objective of the summit meeting was to streamline a cybersecurity competition board to facilitate the needs of high schools, community colleges, universities and the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC). The CCDC is already acknowledged as a rapidly growing cyber defense competition with remarkable participation and enrollment at the two and four-year college level. The winners from each state progress to the regional competition and then go on to the national competition.
The advancement of students in the cyber security industry relies heavily on participation in cyber defense competitions. The Cyber Skills Competition Pathway Summit meeting put forth an enormous amount of effort to add synergy to the competitions and to acclimate high school students more successfully to the college competitions.
To learn more about the CCDC, visit mwccdc.org. To host a cyber defense competition or to participate, please contact Ginny Swyndroski at firstname.lastname@example.org or (708) 974-5725.
Congratulations to the winning teams in state and regional Cyber Defense competitions that tested the students’ ability to detect and respond to outside threats while maintaining existing network services.
Illinois State Competition
1st DePaul University
2nd Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
3rd Illinois State University
Michigan State Competition
1st Baker College of Flint
2nd Jackson Community College
3rd Davenport University
Minnesota State Competition
1st Inver Hills Community College
2nd Minnesota State Community and Technical College
3rd Minnesota State University-Mankato
Indiana/Ohio State Competition
1st Baldwin-Wallace College
2nd Indiana Tech Fort Wayne
3rd Rhodes State College
Midwest Regional Competition
1st DePaul University
2nd Southern Illinois University Carbondale
3rd Baker College of Flint
“The teams demonstrated an exceptional job managing their computer networks, keeping them operational and preventing unauthorized access,” said Erich Spengler, Director of CSSIA and associate professor of Computer Integrated Technologies at Moraine Valley Community College.
Exciting changes are in place for the 2010 State and Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions (CCDC). More than 250 students in computer security and technology programs from 27 Midwest universities and community colleges will participate in competitions in February and March 2010, hosted by the Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance (CSSIA). This year CSSIA is utilizing a new cyber competition engine, CyberNEXS, from Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). In cooperation with CSSIA competition experts and industry advisory partners, CyberNEXS has been aligned to meet the needs of the Midwest State and Local CCDC events.
This new format includes an administrative console to allow communication between judges and student teams. Judges will use this to communicate directives to competitive teams and to document their accomplishments. These competitions incorporate built-in vulnerabilities, attack sequences and a comprehensive scoring engine that provides objective measures of team performance.
Teams will have access to their respective team networks remotely through a com- mon PC workstation and browser. The implementation of CyberNEXS will improve consistency for all CCDC state and local events. The Regional CCDC will maintain its traditional format as directed by the Competition Advisory Board (CIAB).
To learn more about the competition, visit http://home.mwccdc.org/.
The Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition Industry Advisory Board continues its efforts to improve cyber defense competitions held at high schools and colleges.
Seeking greater synergy, Erich Spengler, director of the Regional Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance, Bob Schoenherr and David Durkee, board members, and Duke Ayers, a representative of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), are collaborating with to SkillsUSA, a professional organization with members who develop technical, academic and employability skills.
One of the many ways students advance in this industry is through cyber defense competitions. CSSIA has been involved in the competitions for several years and has been putting forth an effort to acclimate high school students more successfully to the college competition. One of the suggested means is to use a cyber defense engine developed by SAIC.
“As the whole field of network and information management gets more complicated, employers are constantly challenged to find new employees with the proper skills and experience,” said David Durkee. If CSSIA’s recommendations to help prepare students for the college standard are accepted by SkillsUSA, CSSIA will present a demonstration competition at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in June 2010.
For more information:
Midwest, state and regional competitions.....mwccdc.org
SkillsUSA .................................................... skillsusa.org
The CSSIA Virtualization Data Center (CVDC) powers the State and Regional CCDC Competition Stadiums and various learning laboratories. This state of the art environment uses the latest technologies. Here is the research and development rack that prototypes the competition environment.