Aug. 17, 2023

NDSU students attend cybersecurity conference 


A group of NDSU students recently attended the DefCon cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas. The experience provides an opportunity for students to learn about all types of cybersecurity from world leaders and to meet with NDSU alumni who work in the cybersecurity field. 

The students who attended brought information that they will share with others at NDSU through activities of the Cybersecurity Student Association and a variety of local events. Six NDSU students – Cameron Kolodjski, Elsa Bernard, Jack Hance, Jonathan Rivard, Neal Buerman and Sydney Deaton – attended the conference in 2023. 

“DefCon was an incredible experience,” said NDSU undergraduate student Elsa Bernard.  “There is so much to be learned and explored in just four days.  It will definitely have me coming back.” 

The conference brings together leaders in cybersecurity for four days of learning and sharing. Currently in its 31st year, the conference features multiple tracks of speakers as well as hands-on activities. Topics range from artificial intelligence to securing spacecraft. 

“DefCon is an inspiring place to be around like-minded people.  The atmosphere is extremely inviting and full of energy,” said NDSU undergraduate student Neal Buerman.  “I loved learning about everything from AI to gambling security.  The best part about DefCon is that everyone is there to learn and share their knowledge.” 

In addition to speakers and hands-on activities, there are a variety of competitions for DefCon attendees to participate in, ranging from capture the flag style competitions to those focused on social engineering.  There are also areas focused on cybersecurity education and cybersecurity-themed gaming. 

“DefCon provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn cybersecurity topics.  They also get exposure to a variety of specialized hardware and hear about the latest breakthroughs in the offensive security field,” said Jeremy Straub, associate professor of computer science and NDSU Cybersecurity Institute director. “Students always come back more excited than ever – drawing from the excitement of others at the event.” 

NDSU cybersecurity students participate in multiple cybersecurity conferences and compete in numerous cybersecurity competitions each year. The conferences provide an opportunity for learning beyond the classroom and industry networking.  The competitions provide an opportunity for the students to develop and demonstrate their skills in career-relevant areas. 

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