Team from RIT trains for virtual cyber defense national championship
It’s a new world out there and the RIT cyber defense team is ready for it. The team is preparing for a new style of competition and a new format from the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC), which takes place May 22-23.
This championship is part of the nation’s largest college-level cyber defense competition. In fact, it is this event that helps to train the next generation of cybersecurity experts.
Due to COVID-19, the teams will need to compete virtually for the first time ever. “Being able to communicate with your other team members without physically gathering is a new challenge for the National Championship, said Dwayne Williams, director of CCDC. “but it perfectly reflects the current business environment.”
During the evolving COVID-19 situation, RIT’s team has been practicing using Discord. They have been coming up with ways to update their game plan for the new remote format of the competition.
Jack McKenna, captain of the RIT team, said that everyone has been working hard to practice, especially as some students begin their jobs and balance family obligations. “With the virtual environment, some things like transferring information between teammates will become easier,” said McKenna, a fourth-year computing security student. “However, I anticipate most of the competition will be more challenging as we are no longer able to access systems physically.”
In the past, RIT’s cyber defense team has been a serious contender at both the regional and national competitions. Last year, the team placed third at nationals. RIT received an automatic berth to the 2020 nationals after winning the virtual Northeast regional competition in March.
The format for this competition places students into a “mock” situation. Student teams are given the opportunity to assume responsibility for the information technology operations of a simulated organization, which allows them to apply cyber defense skills in a real-world scenario.
A group of industry professionals from government and companies—called the red team—is assigned to break into computer networks to exploit information from a mock organization. Teams of students are “hired” by the organization to prevent that information theft from occurring.
The RIT student team is made up of computing security majors McKenna; Newman; Buchheit; Ali Alamri, a fourth-year student from Saudi Arabia; Adriano DeCastro, a fourth-year student from Stonington, Conn.; Robert Gray, a second-year student from Canandaigua, N.Y.; Connor Shade, a fourth-year student from Jersey Shore, Pa.; Mohammed Alshehri, a third-year student from Saudi Arabia; Daniel Szafran, a third-year student from Colrain, Mass.; and Phillip Babey, a second-year student from Newark Valley, N.Y. Alternate team members include Ella Daugherty, a first-year student from San Diego, Calif. and Craig Gebo, a second-year student from Rochester, N.Y.
This year’s RIT team is coached by Bill Stackpole, professor in RIT’s Department of Computing Security, and assistant coached by Justin Pelletier, director of the GCI Cyber Range and Training Center.
Next year, in 2021, RIT will host the Northeast regional competition in the new three-story Global Cybersecurity Institute (GCI) facility. The GCI facility is being created to address critical workforce needs and the global cybersecurity crisis by conducting groundbreaking research, education and professional training.