The UMBC “Cyber Dawgs” cyber defense team received first place at the 2017 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in San Antonio, Texas. The team ranked first in the nation against nine runners up, which included teams of eight from Rochester Institute, Montana Tech, California State and many more.
The competition aims to test cyber defense teams across the nation while allowing classwork to translate into legitimate practice, as well as maintain an awareness for the field of defense against cyberattack and warfare. Student teams are given a model company’s digital profile and asked to maintain their various servers, online users, email and digital marketplace, all while guarding against any malicious attack and building on network security as demanded. During this, a volunteer enemy group composed of white hat hackers continually threatens system integrity, while a scoring engine measures the defense team’s responses and ability to maintain their site. This takes place from April 13 to April 15 ensuring the competitors are rigorously tested before a winner it declared.
Anh Ho, senior computer science major and team vice president, said, “We train for many different services, many different scenarios, many different machines to actually commandeer so it’s basically that exposure… I know what this service is, I already know how to set it up and how to secure it.”
During the event, the team inherited a network related to comic selling. Ho explained, “We were selling figurines and comic books, and we had to keep anything up from the help desk… We had to keep our website up [and] we had to keep a bunch of things up and while this was happening the [attacking] team is in and just destroying all of our services and defacing websites and pulling out personally identifiable information.”
The Cyber Dawgs’s meetings involve introductions to the foundations of computer security, while helping beginners adapt to the field and network with other students. As part of their preparation for the competition, team members participate in lectures and training, testing themselves for several computer engineering tasks such as system administration, memory forensics and firewall management, as well as topics submitted to their club secretary. Additionally, the team also participates in several competitions such as Capture the Flag for both Cyber Security Week and MITRE Cyber Academy and the Metropolis cybersecurity competition.
Dr. Charles Nicholas, professor of computer science and co-faculty advisor to the team, said, “The team is mostly computer science majors, but that is not a requirement.” He added, “Technical expertise is an important part of the competition, but it’s a long two days and equally important if not more important is the ability to work as part of a team under pressure and that’s a real part of the cyber profession, sometimes there’s things are going wrong badly… so it becomes not only a technical test, but a test of character.”
The Cyber Dawg’s currently accept members of all skill levels and meet in the ITE building room 231 every Wednesday. Zack Orndorff, sophomore computer science major and team secretary, said, “We’re hoping to go back to nationals and defend our title.”
“Our club’s open to anybody at UMBC who wants to come to our meetings, we’ll try to teach you whatever we can. All we require is motivation.”