Real-world simulation will provide practice during cyber defense competition at Highline

College students from around the Pacific Northwest will have the chance to practice thwarting hackers during the 8th Annual Pacific Rim Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. Scheduled for March 21–22, 2015, at Highline College, the event provides students with real-world challenges while maintaining a corporate network that can­not be repli­cated in a typ­i­cal classroom. This type of competitive practice gives students better training and preparation for the workforce.

“With the recent stories on data security breaches—which are growing in number—it is essential that our students are out here learning how to deal with network intrusions and cyberattacks,” said Dr. Amelia Phillips, Highline Computer Information Systems faculty member and the regional director of the event.

Teams from 14 colleges and universities are scheduled to participate in the annual competition: Clover Park Technical College (Lakewood), Columbia Basin College (Pasco), Evergreen State College (Olympia), Green River Community College (Auburn), Highline College, ITT Technical Institute (Boise, Idaho), Lewis and Clark College (Portland, Oregon), Linfield College (McMinnville, Oregon), Peninsula College (Port Angeles), University of Idaho (Moscow, Idaho), Western Washington University (Bellingham), Whatcom Community College (Bellingham) and the University of Washington, which will send teams from two of its campuses (Seattle and Tacoma). Each team consists of between six and eight students with a cap of two graduate students on each team. Students from at least two high schools will be on hand to participate in the National Initiative for Cyber Security Education (NICE) Challenge Project and observe the competition with the hope that the students will be inspired to pursue cybersecurity as a profession.

“During the competition, students may be dealing with power outages, network installations or other challenges while being under attack by professional hackers—also known as penetration testers,” said Phillips. The hackers will be trained professionals from government agencies, National Guard, Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and local industry.

Open to two- and four-year colleges and universities in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, the Pacific Rim Competition serves as the regional competition for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. The Pacific Rim region boasts national status with the University of Washington Seattle winning both the regional and national competitions in 2011 and 2012. Western Washington University won the Pacific Rim Competition in 2014. This year’s national championship is scheduled for April 24–26, 2015, in San Antonio, Texas.

This is Highline’s sixth year hosting the regional event. Using the computer labs on Highline’s campus, the students in the competition will need to maintain a company network that has been designed by the Idaho State University NIATEC graduate students—complete with security flaws—while they are being attacked. They will need to secure the operating systems, email servers, websites and other parts of a business network. They must also update their websites, create new user accounts and perform other standard business activities while delivering excellent customer service to irate customers who call in.

The primary objective of the competition is to provide students with real-world challenges. The second objective is to give potential employers—the sponsors—a chance to observe students under pressure. As part of the two-day competition, breakfast and dinner events will be held to allow students to do short interviews with the sponsors and allow sponsors to talk to those students they may be interested in hiring. Sponsors include Boeing, Microsoft, Raytheon, CyberWatch West, U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), T-Mobile, Deloitte, Portland General Electric, Cobalt Strike, Spawar, Splunk, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency (NSA) and VMware.

View KING 5 TV’s coverage of the PRCCDC competition at Highline.

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The Big Dance of Data Defense

Support Highline’s cyber defense team in the Pacific Rim Regional by choosing the college using Raytheon’s interactive bracket

For more information, contact Dr. Amelia Phillips at (206) 592-3497 or aphillips@highline.edu.