BYU students compete in national cyber security competition

Five students set to compete for $20,000 in national competition

So much of our lives—bank accounts, credit cards, stock, etc.—are part of today’s digitized world. Security systems are mechanized, a large part of the world’s population uses debit or credit cards to pay for day-to-day necessities, and even education occurs mostly online. This world of computers and smart phones calls for experts on cyber risk, because, as it turns out, there’s a shortage of cyber talent in the United States.

Luckily, some of Brigham Young University’s own are helping to fill that gap. A team of students with experience in cyber analytics is participating in a national cyber competition, the final phase of which will take place on April 12 and 13.

The National Cyber Analyst Challenge and Conference (NCAC) supports the nation’s best students pursuing cyber-related degrees by holding a three-phase competition focused on cyber defense, risk analysis, threat identification, remediation, and communication.

To be accepted into the competition, teams needed to present an entry which would be judged on presentation, incident analysis/content, and technical skills on a scale of 0 to 25. BYU’s team received exemplary scores across the board and was awarded $10,000 for their qualification in the first phase.

Blake Moss, a senior studying information technology at BYU and a member of the BYU cyber analyst/digital forensics challenge team, explained the competition’s three phases.

“The first phase involved creating a forensics investigation presentation based on a simulation scenario,” Moss said. “We were asked to investigate about 250 gigabytes of network and system data from the scenario’s computers and network traffic to determine if malicious activity had occurred at the simulation’s “company”. We also were required to submit recommendations for improving the company’s security posture.”

After the team successfully passed the first phase, they moved onto the second phase, which is ongoing currently. The second phase is a training phase where the team receives instruction from industry professionals on digital forensics and cyber analysts’ techniques and methods.

The third and final phase is held in Philadelphia.

“They are a little ambiguous on what exactly the challenge will be for the finals, but we know it will last for the entire day and will probably consist of us analyzing forensics material and coming up with a report of some kind,” Moss said.

Moss along with CJ Cornel, Kyle Fletcher, Amin Haq, and Tanner Perdue make up the BYU team, along with advisor Justin Giboney, assistant professor of information technology. They will be competing in phase three with teams from Carnegie Mellon University, Howard University, Iowa State University, Pennsylvania State University, Syracuse University, University of Alabama at Huntsville, University of Maryland University College, University of New Haven, and Villanova University. The winning team will receive an additional $20,000.

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