SUU Cyber Defense Club
Photo courtesy of Tommy Gugino

Southern Utah University students won first place at the third annual NIATEC Invitational Cyber Defense Competition hosted by Idaho State University earlier this month.

Competitors defended against a professionally trained offensive security team while learning forensics, sniffing, and penetration-testing tools, all within a controlled virtual environment. Teams also demonstrated communication, leadership, and collaboration skills while completing various business tasks related to cybersecurity.

The competition’s scenario was designed around a 2014 breach. The teams competing acted as Incident Responding Teams to a computer system’s breach of a fictional company. Defending their systems, competitors were tasked with identifying the individuals responsible for the break and performing various business goals and objectives. The focus of the event was to provide each participant with valuable, “lifelike” learning experiences.

“The most defining characteristic and greatest strength of our Cyber Defense Teams is their ability to work efficiently and effectively as team,” said Rob Robertson, cyber defense team adviser. “We were notified of this competition only a few days before the event and the response from our club members was remarkable.”

Dylan Swallow, a freshman majoring in computer science, said the event was a great experience. “I got to learn more technical skills and gained experience working as a team in a realistic but fun environment.”

“NICDC 2015 was the club’s 21st competition since its founding in the 2013-2014 school year,” said Alex Rodriguez-Vargas, a junior also majoring in computer science. “Our consistent hard work finally shows and is paying off. We knew we had done the best we could, but our win came as a great surprise. Even after it was announced we could hardly believe we had accomplished our goal.”

Competitions help students apply what is presented and taught in the CSIS department and provide contacts in the industry who are looking for students with these skills to fill internships and full-time positions. The first-place win over BYU-Idaho and BYU-Provo earned students $1,000 in scholarships.