NKU Cyber Defense Team Phishes for Big Win

cyber NKU Cyber Defense Team

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Viruses, phishing attacks, and hacking incidents have become commonplace in today’s technological world, making it more important than ever to combat those issues that many face throughout the electronics that have taken over the world. Students within the Northern Kentucky University College of Informatics Computer Science Department train specifically for these outbreaks. Those students are members of the Cyber Defense Team.

The Cyber Defense Team was formed in 2009 led by Dr. Yi Hu, associate professor of computer science. “In the beginning, we had little knowledge of the competitions or how to train the students for them,” said Dr. Hu. After competing and placing fourth in the Southeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in 2009, Dr. Hu explained that the team was able to grow. The team was “brought from a little known university team to a top competitor in the United States.”

Fast forward to 2017, their talent and expertise was once again put to the test. In February, the Cyber Defense Team competed in their Griffin Hall home against state schools including their biggest competitor - University of Louisville. “We only have three returning members, so the team is very young” said junior Allyson Frame, team captain and computer information technology major. “We have to keep up services throughout the competition as well as run some business portions. We have from a half-hour to two-hours to work on specific tasks and turn them in.”

But that isn’t enough. The competition also consists of a Dedicated Red Team – business professionals who hack into the systems on which the student teams are working. “They get into our system any way they can,” said Frame.

Though the team has been successful in the past, the fact that the majority of the team is young could become problematic. The team was “learning the basics of how the competition worked,” said Frame. That didn’t affect their dedication. “It’s been motivating watching them grow as a team,” Frame said. “They’ve been able to communicate more. They know what their responsibilities are within the first 20 minutes and they know to get everything secure.”

This enthusiasm and hard work was rewarded with a first-place finish in the 2017 Kentucky Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. The triumph against a huge competitor allows the team to move on to the Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. “Since 2009, we are doing better. We have been almost every year to the regional level [and] received a ranking” said Dr. Hu. In 2014, the Cyber Defense team was able to move on to the national competition, where they finished No. 6 out of 50 teams.

The competition is an educational and growing process for the students. “I’m really fortunate to have a group of passionate students who love security and real-world problems” said Hu. “The student success is my success. That part is really fulfilling as a professor.”

The Midwest regional competition will be held in Chicago, starting on March 17. This is one of five regional competitions in which 10 teams each compete for their region’s spot at nationals. Stay tuned on COI social media for updated information as results come in.

### NKU ###