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Another Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition win for Towson

For the third time in the past four years, Towson University has won the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

The Towson team, comprising eight students, worked for two days to defend a network of computers from attacks while keeping their systems running and responding to user and management needs.

Cyber competition

Students compete at Operation Cyber Blizzard.
Photo by Rich Gardella, courtesy of NBC News.

This year’s competition scenario focused on the idea that a major blizzard had impacted the entire state of Maryland, prompting declarations of emergency and the mobilization of the Maryland National Guard.

Students acted as the IT staff for local field operations in support of the guard, and their tasks were to set up and maintain secure communications at remote field stations. They were also responsible for managing network infrastructure, tracking volunteers, equipment and supplies as they moved to aid the victims.

Many members of the Maryland National Guard volunteered to help, including Elizabeth “Nikki” Austin from TU’s Department of Nursing and the Integrated Homeland Security Management program.

Simultaneously, each team faced off against roughly 30 professional attackers whose role was to disrupt the operations of the student teams through a simulated cyber attack on state and national systems.

During the competition the students responded to “injects,” the requirements of the underlying organization that range from simple things like adding users to the system to much more complex tasks like having the team captain interviewed on camera by someone playing the role of the county executive. The team captain reported on the state of their network and made changes and recommendations.

Thirty different schools from Pennsylvania to North Carolina participated in the regional competition, including Bowie State, George Mason, George Washington, North Carolina State, the Naval Academy and the University of Maryland at College Park, all of whom were knocked out in the qualifying round.

The finals were held in the Kossiakoff Center at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins in Laurel, Md., and webcast live on securityweekly.com. Joining Towson in the finals were Anne Arundel Community College, Capitol College, Liberty University, Millersville University, Radford University, UMBC and West Virginia University. Liberty and Radford finished second and third, respectively.

Towson’s success continues a legacy of wins in cyber defense competitions for the university. The Towson team won the event in 2010 and in 2012, and also won the 2011 Maryland Cyber Challenge and the 2010 CSC Cyb3rBattleground Competition.

The student team now begins preparation for the national competition to be held in San Antonio from April 25-27, where they hope to improve upon their previous finishes — fourth place in 2010 and fifth place in 2012. The national competition will feature winners of the 10 different regional competitions.

The Towson team features eight students: team captain Matt Mickel; seniors Emily Jay and Kurt Karolenko; juniors Felix Guerrero, John Feehley, Justin Mavunkal and Matt Spriesterbach; and sophomore Matt Verrette.

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