Southeast Cyber Defense Team Clinches Seventh Straight State Title

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Southeast cybersecurity students spend hours honing their skills in preparation for the Missouri and Midwest Regional CCDCs.

The Southeast Missouri State University Cyber Defense Team has extended its streak as the reigning Missouri state champion after winning the 2019 Missouri Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) Feb. 5 for the seventh straight year.

Twelve Southeast students participated in the virtual competition in which 20 schools from Missouri, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Indiana simultaneously participated in their respective state competitions. Southeast finished atop the Missouri field that also included teams from Missouri University of Science and Technology and Northwest Missouri State University. Southeast’s team finished third among the field of 20 from the four-state region.

The Southeast team now advances to the Erich J. Spenger Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition March 15-16 at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, Illinois.

Southeast students competing were Mackenzie Bonneville of Mapleton, Illinois; Andrew Banning of Salem, Illinois; Michael Maune of Villa Ridge, Missouri; Timothy Vitale of Wentzville, Missouri; Ben Shell of Marble Hill, Missouri; Ethan Gyori of Eureka, Missouri; Connor McGarr of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Cramer McGarr of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Jack Gavin of Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Max Foster of Freeburg, Illinois; Connor Bybee of Carterville, Illinois; and Joseph Kossack of Vienna, Illinois.

Dr. Vijay Anand is the faculty advisor to Southeast’s cyber defense team.

“The consistency that we have been able to accomplish through different teams with a various mix of skill sets in each of the teams definitely sets us apart,” said Dr. Vijay Anand, director of Southeast’s cybersecurity program, faculty advisor to Southeast’s Cyber Defense team and associate professor of computer science. “It all boils down to having the right fundamentals, right processes and right mentorship throughout these years.

“The program challenges students to strive for excellence and the results show,” Anand said. “It also shows the commitment of students and their willingness to put in long hours to hone their skills and establish camaraderie and trust to be able compete at a very high level.”

The Midwest CCDC has proved challenging over the years, he said.

“We hope to practice enough to overcome this challenge,” he said, adding this year’s team has reached out to Southeast cybersecurity alumni to help them prepare for this year’s Midwest competition. “We are on the lookout of what is ongoing in the industry and, hopefully, our due diligence helps us overcome this hurdle this year.”

Southeast’s cyber defense team was tasked securing a networked computer system while maintaining standard business operations.

The competitions are designed to test each team’s ability to secure a networked computer system while maintaining standard business functionality. The scenario of each competition involves team members simulating a group of employees from an IT service company that initiate administration of an Information Technology (IT) infrastructure. The teams are expected to manage the computer network, keep it operational, and prevent unauthorized access. Each team must maintain and provide public services, including a web site, a secure web site, an email server, a database server, an online curriculum server and workstations used by simulated sales, marketing and research staff per company policy and mission.

Each team starts the competition with a set of identically configured systems. The objective of the competition is to measure a team’s ability to maintain secure computer network operations in a simulated business environment.

“This is not just a technical competition, but also one built upon the foundation of business operations, policy and procedures,” Anand said.

A technical success that adversely impacts a business operation results in a lower score as does a business success which results in security weaknesses. Student teams are scored on their ability to detect and respond to outside threats, including cyber attacks, while maintaining availability of existing network services such as mail servers and web servers, responding to business requests such as the addition or removal of additional services, and balancing security against varying business needs.

“I am very proud of my students,” Anand said. “Their commitment, professionalism and skills are exemplary, and having them to work with is an amazing experience. Having the opportunity to be able to work with all these students over these years has been awesome.”