NKU cyber defense team takes top spot in regional competition

For immediate release…
Thursday – Nov. 13, 2014

The Northern Kentucky University cyber defense team took first place at a regional cyber defense competition this past weekend. The Norse team bested 20 collegiate teams from schools across the region to win the Midwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Invitational.

“I was very happy to see how well our team did working together to win this warm-up event. I am very proud that we were able to come in first place and that the new members were able to work so well and contribute under the stresses thrown at us,” said Ashley Huffman, NKU cyber security team captain. “I hope we will be able to continue on with this winning record and again make it to Nationals and hopefully this time win.”

The NKU cyber security team consisted of students: Rasheed El-Saleh (Computer Science, Masters), Allyson Frame (Computer Science, Freshman), Aaron Harrell (Computer Information Technology, Junior), Brandon Hinkel (Computer Information Technology, Senior), Joshua Howard (Computer Science, Junior), Ashley Huffman (Computer Science and Computer Information Technology, Junior), Rick Martin (Computer Science, Freshman), Tyler Thompson (Computer Information Technology, Sophomore), Nick Wade (Computer Science, Sophomore), and Brandon Warner (Computer Science, Sophomore).

“This competition, while incredibly fun is also very challenging,” said Dr. Yi Hu, associate professor of computer science and faculty advisor to the NKU cyber security team. “Students faced numerous operating system platforms and networking systems, including some that are rarely used. They not only needed to manage normal operations of various online services, but also required to identify intrusions from the real-time attackers,” Dr. Hu added. “By involving students in this and other competitions it helps promote security programs at NKU, as well as engaging students in a career of cyber security."

Dr. Frank Braun, interim department of business informatics chair, praised the team and the faculty teaching them. “The multidimensionality, depth, and commitment of the COI students and faculty in the security domain is really playing out here,” Dr. Braun said. “The cyber defense team continues to demonstrate their diverse skills, talents, and capabilities."

The Midwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Invitational is a warm-up competition for students to prepare for 2015 Midwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition that will be held in late March 2015.

The competition is designed to test each student team’s ability to secure a networked computer system while maintaining standard business functionality. The teams were expected to manage the computer network, keep it operational, and prevent unauthorized access.

For this invitational the Norse cyber defense team included several new students to give them a taste of a competition and prepare them to become future contributors to the NKU cyber defense team. 

“Cybersecurity is daunting; there are new threats every day," said Dr. Kevin Kirby, dean of the NKU College of Informatics. "Successes in competitions like this are becoming the main way students, and academic programs, show they are up to date and ready to meet the challenges ahead. Staying cutting edge has always been the strong point of NKU's College of Informatics."

Cyber defense competitions are grueling multi-day events that are designed to test each team’s ability to defend a corporate-style computer network under sustained attack. The team must strive to maintain normal business function as well as defend against the constant attack scenarios presented. The competition uses real network hardware, not simulations.

Earlier this year NKU’s cyber defense team won the 2014 Midwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition held in Chicago, earning them a spot at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in San Antonio. That was the team’s first time competing in the national competition and they placed sixth.

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