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NDSU students participate in cybersecurity competition

NDSU students Jack Hance, Pann Ajjimaporn, Brett Knecht, Taylor Schmidt, Devin Gluesing and Isaac Burton traveled to Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee, to compete in the Collegiate Pentesting Competition.

The competition puts students in the role of professional penetration testers – individuals that test computer systems and networks to find and fix problems before nefarious individuals hack the system. They compete with other teams to find and document issues with a simulated network in just the way professional penetration testers would in the real-world.

The student competitors were given a simulated corporate network with obvious and other less obvious security flaws. They had a limited amount of time to evaluate it. Once their time identifying potential security flaws concluded, they wrote a professional report on what they discovered. The report was scored by the judges to pick the winning teams.

“All of the cybersecurity competitions that our students participate in provide an excellent opportunity for them to learn, practice and demonstrate new knowledge and skills,” said NDSU assistant professor Jeremy Straub, who mentors the team. "The collegiate penetration testing competition provides the additional benefit of preparing them for a specific job role and letting them demonstrate their skills.”

The competition is sponsored by technology companies such as IBM, Google, Eaton, Uber and Indeed. Companies benefit from their sponsorship by helping to prepare future employees for the industry at large, as well as having the opportunity to interact with the student teams to identify prospective employees.

“It was a great time. I learned a lot,” said Hance, the team captain. “It gave me real-world experience. It not only helped with my technical skills but also with my technical writing skills. I expect it to help me with my future career in cybersecurity.”

This was NDSU’s first year of competing in the Collegiate Pentesting Competition. It is the latest addition to a collection of cybersecurity competitions that NDSU students participate in for educational and workforce preparation.

Students who excel in cybersecurity competitions position themselves to be hired for the more than 300,000 open cybersecurity jobs in the United States, according to CyberSeek.org. The average salary for a cybersecurity analyst is $98,350, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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