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NDSU computer science students excel in cyber competition

Photo of Jeremy Straub

Jeremy Straub

NDSU students demonstrated they are ready to become the next generation of cyber security personnel, when they won four top 10 finishes during the National Cyber League’s Fall 2018 team competition and 19th place overall, out of more than 350 teams. Team captain Isaac Burton, a senior in computer engineering who is also pursuing graduate studies in computer science, placed 45th out of 3,324 students nationwide in the individual competition.

NDSU’s team took seventh place nationally in open source intelligence, ninth in password cracking, eighth in log analysis and seventh in network traffic analysis. Along with Burton, NDSU’s Gold team included sophomore Jack Hance, junior Taylor Schmidt, sophomore Lucas Miller and senior Demitrius Fenton.

The National Cyber League, or NCL, provides entertaining and measurable methods of learning for a new generation of cybersecurity professionals. It was founded by the Cyber Security Privacy and Research Institute, Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance, CyberWatch West, Mid-Pacific Information and Communication Technologies Center and the National CyberWatch Center.

In addition to Burton’s top 50 finish, Miller and Hance ended up in the top 10 percent of students nationwide and Schmidt, Fenton and sophomore Steven Karschnia placed in the top 20 percent.

“All of these students are showing that they have what it takes to succeed in real-world cybersecurity positions,” said Jeremy Straub, assistant professor of computer science, who mentors the National Cyber League Team. Straub also is the associate director of the NDSU Institute for Cybersecurity Education and Research. “The competition tests students on skills that they will need to perform jobs that are in extremely high demand under the significant time pressure of the competition. Students that do well in NCL can expect to be sought after by recruiters.”

During the competition, the team demonstrated its cybersecurity skills in several areas, such as open source intelligence, cryptography, scanning, password cracking, log analysis and network traffic analysis. 

For Burton, participating in the competition is about both the learning experience and seeking a job in the field. “It has helped me display my skills, allowing me to show companies what I can bring to their company,” he said. “I’ve learned that working in a team is important to succeed. I enjoy the experience and want to keep experiencing the growth that I have over the last year.”

This is Burton’s third season of competing in the NCL. In the spring 2018 competition, he placed in the top 100 of more than 2,000 competitors; during fall 2017, he placed in the top 15 percent nationwide.

“The National Cyber League is a great opportunity to compete with your peers using your cyber skills and learn new things together,” said Fenton. “While I’ve been competing for a year now, I still learn new cyber skills every time I compete.”

The NDSU Institute for Cybersecurity Education and Research is headquartered in NDSU’s Department of Computer Science. It has 11 faculty members from computer science, emergency management and electrical and computer engineering, as well as the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute. It aims to meet the public need for leading-edge cyber security software development and information technology practices.

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