Prepping for the 2021 Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition
By: Matthew Hansel, Faculty Advisor
January 26, 2021
The Baker College Cyber Defense Team from left to right: Dylan Johnston, Brandon Webster, Nathan Hall, Faculty Advisor Matthew Hansel, Samantha Canode, Tallon Komar, and Dillon Viar. Missing from the photo are students Shaylynne Simons and Anna Engel and Faculty Advisor Steven Vincent
Baker College (BC): For those who don’t already know, what is the annual statewide Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) and when will it be taking place?
Matthew Hansel, Faculty Advisor (MH): The CCDC competition is an event where teams of eight (8) students work together as a team, assuming the role of an IT support staff.
They have to provide administrative and protective support duties for a “company network” of 50+ employees. They are responsible for keeping this network of multiple servers and network equipment active and protected while responding to business requests and active “attacks” from a group of attackers. They are scored on their ability to answer the business requests, while maintaining security and up-time of their equipment.
The competition for 2021 will be taking place on February 13, 2021 through a virtual environment.
BC: How many teams does Baker College have competing this year and from what campus locations?
MH: This year, we have one team representing the Owosso campus.
BC: How many years in a row have Baker College Cyber Defense Teams participated in CCDC events? How many wins do they have at this time?
MH: They have competed every year since 2008. We have won 8 state championships, 2 regional wins and 2 national championships.
BC: What kinds of scenarios are the competing teams faced with during the competition?
MH: The team faces all kinds of scenarios, but we all face the same challenges. We must secure and defend off professional hackers that are trying to get into our systems. On top of that we are given “injects”, these are daily tasks that a real IT team may be faced with on a daily basis and are given a select amount of time to complete. Every hour a new set of tasks are assigned to different team members.
BC: COVID has changed the way universities and businesses alike have had to function over the last year, how has the Cyber Defense team had to adapt their training methods?
MH: This has been one of the more difficult tasks to overcome in preparation for the competition, as well as recruiting for our Cyber Defense Club. In previous years, the team would meet in their dedicated Cyber Defense room at the Flint campus. We have new Cyber Defense rooms at the Owosso campus, but unfortunately with COVID, we have not been able to utilize the room at all. What we have done is conduct practice sessions virtually with our virtual environment we have configured. This allowed the team to work from the safety, convenience, and comfort of their homes to meet and practice. We used Discord, a communication tool typically used within the gaming community, to communicate and have meetings. This allowed us to simulate what it would be like in an all virtual competition environment. Even though this was a workable solution, it still was not the same as the in-person collaboration the team was accustomed to.
BC: In the past, the CCDC competitions have been hosted in common locations for all competitors. How will this year’s state competition be different?
MH: This year’s competition will be hosted virtually. The competition environment will be hosted by Moraine Valley Community College, the site where the regional competition is typically hosted. Our team is using past experience competing at the regional level to prepare for the competition. They are basing their practice topology (how the network and services are configured) on what they faced last year at the regional competition.
BC: What unique challenges will the Cyber Defense teams be faced with during this year’s competition and what strategies are they using to overcome these challenges?
MH: This year we have merged with Wisconsin and their teams. Wisconsin is also hosting the competition. This is a different challenge as we are not sure how this state will be putting everything together. We are preparing for the unknown this year and in doing so we are all practicing- not finished.
BC: What are the teams’ goals for this year’s competition?
MH: Their immediate goal is to win. Their underlying goal is to take what they have learned in the classroom and practice, and test their knowledge and skills. The students on the team treat this as both a challenge and learning experience.
BC: We’ve seen our Cyber Defense Teams participate around the country in competitions like the CCDC, what other opportunities are offered to Cyber Defense Team members?
MH: There are other avenues the students can participate in, such as Hack the Box (https://www.hackthebox.eu/). They have labs that the students can participate in that allow them to increase their skills. As they increase their skills, they can earn “rankings” on their global leaderboard. There are also many capture-the-flag (CTF) competitions or events that the students can participate in.
BC: How can someone learn more about joining the Cyber Defense Team?
MH: At this time, the best way to learn more about the Cyber Defense Team is to email either me, Matthew Hansel ([email protected]) or Steven Vincent ([email protected]). We are the two advisers for the team and will be able to answer any questions you have, as well as getting you in contact with the club members if you are interested in joining.
We wish our Cyber Defense Team great luck in the 2021 CCDC competition on Saturday, February 13!