Too exhausted to be nervous, the Millersville University cyber defense team arrived in San Antonio Wednesday afternoon April 17 for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC). They were operating with only two days of practice after their win at the Mid-Atlantic CCDC on April 13. With a win at the Mid-Atlantic CCDC it would have been easy to relax, but they stepped up practice and kept up the intensity. Nerves were there, but team captain Travis Romero said, “We tried not to focus on it.”
After two days of competition, Millersville’s cyber defense team would not take the gold at the national competition. The final winners were as follows: in first place Rochester Institute of Technology, second place Dakota State University, and taking third place was Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Millersville’s team celebrated nonetheless; they had made it to the national level and had a chance to test their mettle against the best in the field.
Millersville’s cyber defense team members are all computer science majors. They are Seniors: Travis Romero (Captain), Martin Zirkle, Andrew Elliot, Joshua Van Hine and Juniors: Dylan Leakway, Grant Blankenship, Ryan Butler, and Keat Ly. “They’re cool, down to Earth guys,” said Romero about the other teams at the competition. It was reassuring for Millersville’s team to learn that, “[Other teams] are freaking out just as much as you are,” according to Romero.
The scoring at the National CCDC was the same as the Mid-Atlantic CCDC with the addition of service level agreement (SLA) checks. The team’s servers would be routinely checked during the competition and if the servers were down for six checks in a row or for 20 minutes then the SLA would be considered broken and the team would lose considerable points. The SLA checks hurt the team’s score, according to Romero.
Even with the difficulty of the competition there is always an opportunity to get better. “This kind of situation doesn’t exist in the real world,” says Andrew Elliot, “Hackers will not penetrate your network, then tell you how to make it more secure.” The CCDC offers students a chance to learn the ropes of cyber security; failing to protect the network is ok since students will have a chance to learn from their mistakes.
Even though Millersville did not take home a medal, the team got something much more valuable – hands on experience and a chance to network with industry professionals. In addition to the job fair the teams are given the opportunity to meet with professionals in order to prepare before the competition. The graduating seniors are being contacted by prospective employers who they had met at the CCDC, according to Romero who just interviewed for a cyber security job this Friday and has another interview scheduled for next week. It is like scouting players for a professional sports team.
The team is already preparing for next season; the taste of nationals still fresh in their mouths. However, with the seniors graduating the team is looking for new players. If you are interested in getting involved in cyber security and you think you have what it takes contact the cyber defense team’s coach, Todd Echterling: firstname.lastname@example.org.