The Orion

Students excel in cybersecurity competition

Infographic by Joe Silva

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Infographic by Joe Silva

Elaine Knudsen

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Chico State computer science students finished in top placements at the National Cyber League in fall of 2014.

Students placed second and seventh in the silver bracket, and seventh in the bronze bracket for the post-season competition.

“This competition was a fantastic opportunity which allowed us to learn common tools and techniques hackers use every day for breaking into systems and networks worldwide,” Chris Witthans, participant, said.

Students involved in a lower division team, known as the Beta team, placed second in the league. The higher ranked division, known as the Alpha team, trailed the Beta team by about 10,000 points.

The challenge included a series of security puzzles, which involved cracking mixed-up passwords and computer file analyzing. There were three individual pre-competition challenges paired with online labs that students used to prepare for the competition.

“Security professionals must remain open and flexible at learning how system vulnerabilities or weaknesses can be leveraged in a remote attack, and this competition did just that,” Witthans said.

Some students were required to be involved in the challenge for a class, “Advanced Security.”

“I am very proud of how well the students did in their first cyber challenge,” David Zeichick, computer science lecturer, said. “Out of 145 colleges, our students scored extremely well.”

Zeichick believes the contest is important because it teaches students relevant skills for a potential future career in cybersecurity.

“Companies are really starting to understand that [computer security] is an important department to have, and therefore there’s a big need for these skills, and that’s new,” Zeichick said. “This competition improves the interest level and the skills of our students, and makes the work fun.”

Last fall, student Matt Bourn placed 28th in the silver bracket, while student Ryan Nelson placed in 37th in the silver bracket. This placed them in fourth and 11th place in the Cyber League’s Western region.

Chico’s computer information systems program achieved accreditation in 2008 and was the first such program in the western United States to do so.

“As a security professional, and for anyone who aspires to dedicate a career to information security, the knowledge and skills gained were paramount,” Witthans said. “I personally enjoyed the high amount of engagement and cooperation given by my peers in this course. Everyone had new knowledge to contribute for the class as a whole, which definitely made this experience quite memorable,”

Elaine Knudsen can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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Students excel in cybersecurity competition