As personal and financial information continues to move to digital formats, cyber defense is an increasingly important career field. To prepare themselves for these jobs, eight students at West Virginia University’s Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources have teamed up to hone their skills and compete against other students from across the country.
CyberWVU is a student organization that trains students in the area of cyber defense and computer security. It has been around since the fall of 2011 and competes in national CyberWatch Collegiate Defense competitions.
Earlier this month, the team qualified for the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition by being in the top eight of 30 teams from West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and North Carolina in a pre-qualifier.
“One of the main focuses of the club is to compete in these national security competitions and the biggest one is the (Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition),” said David Krovich, staff advisor and professional technician for the College.
The face-to-face MACCDC will run March 26-29 at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md. The winner of the MACCDC will face off against teams from nine other regions in the national competition in San Antonio, Texas, April 25-27.
This is the ninth year of the National CyberWatch Collegiate Defense Competitions and only the second time CyberWVU has qualified for the regional competition.
In this year’s competition, teams from eight colleges will have to respond to a winter storm that has created a federal state of emergency in Maryland. Teams will act as field units that will work to help deploy disaster data systems to send aid supplies across the disaster area. If that wasn’t hard enough, the teams will also have to defend the systems from a trans-national terrorist attack from a group trying to take advantage of the chaos during the natural disaster.
This “inherit and defend” format is what cyber security is all about, according to Krovich. This is very similar to how things will be when the students enter the professional field.
“When you get hired, you’re probably not going to have any of the pre-existing knowledge of how it’s configured,” said Barry Martin, a junior computer science major from Boonsboro, Md. “Your first couple of weeks are probably going to be a very similar experience, trying to figure out how everything works together.”
“I definitely love the thrill of the competition,” said Martin, who is the president of CyberWVU. “There are some intense moments, especially when you know there is someone in your system currently and you have to get them out very quickly.
Not only will the students be competing while in Maryland, the competition will also host a job fair featuring sponsors of the MACCDC.
“This is a good way to get real-world experience. It gives you a lot of connections, too,” said Martin. “There’s a lot of networking to be done at the competitions with the job fair.”
Freshman Cameron Morris is glad to be a part of an organization that can help him grow in the field of computer security.
“I’m really interested in computer security and how it all works and how to better secure a system, especially in the professional aspect,” said the Parkersburg, W.Va., native. “I found (CyberWVU) and it’s a really great opportunity to get involved and learn everything I can about security.”
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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