Students excel in national cybersecurity competition

Jan 28, 2015 7:51 PM by Jason Atcho

Cybersecurity might not be a word many people are familiar with, but with the recent worldwide events it's a topic even President Obama mentioned in his State of the Union address. "No foreign nation, no hacker should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families."

Right now, we have 25 billion devices connected to the internet and that number is expected to double in the next five years. "These are devices that store our health information, store where we're at at any given time, and help control our house. At the government level, hide our secrets," said Davis Zeichick, a computer science professor at Chico State.

That's why many, including students at Chico State, participated in the National Cyber League competition. During this competition, they're judged on how well they keep their networks up and running, how well they perform administrative tasks, and how to defending their network from malicious attacks. "Finding weaknesses and vulnerabilities and knowing how to leverage those vulnerabilities. Breaking through and finding out where those hidden flags were," explained Chris Witthans, a Chico State student who competed in the competition.

Among 1,300 competitors, several Chico State students placed in the top 40 during the individual challenge. In the team competition, several Chico State teams placed in the top 10 in their bracket.
Students say competitions like this help prepare them for future careers. "These are real world events that you will see being attacked against a computer. So you're going to see things like this in any real world job whether it be in computer security, administration or anything like that," explained Ryan Nelson, a Chico State student who placed 37th in his bracket of the competition.

White House officials agree that this is a new field that's important to our future. "Only 18% of our country's young people have ever heard about cybersecurity as a career option. I mean in a sense it's not that surprising. It's pretty new," said Vice President Joe Biden.

There will always be hackers out there but we need trained people on the good side to help protect us. "We're trying to protect us. The individuals. The organization of a school. It's very important to know how we can thwart those attacks and this competition did just that," said Witthans.

Staff at Chico State say they've recently reached out to local high school students in the area to get them involved in similar competitions.


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