Computer Science and Engineering Team Takes 2nd Place at Cyber Defense Competition

On the weekend of March 12th, a team from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the Lyle School of Engineering, SMU competed in the Southwest Regional of the NCCDC (National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition) presented by Deloitte. The team comprising six undergraduates and two graduates took second place out of 11 teams. In coordination with representatives from Deloitte, Dr. Suku Nair and a collection of graduate students brought the NCCDC opportunity to SMU. The team had been diligently preparing for the competition for months, and rightfully shocked other competition teams, as well as the NCCDC coordinators, with their breakout performance, nearly unseating reigning regional champion, and 2011 National Runner-Up, Texas A&M.

Each team in the contest acted as the IT team for a fictional company called Lanteen Inc., and had to keep a number of services (i.e. HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, SFTP, DNS, IIS, POP3/IMAP/SMTP) up while being attacked by a team of professional hackers. Each team was randomly assigned a room where eight machines waited, running an assortment of operating systems (Linux, BSD, Windows, Solaris). Lanteen’s previous IT department had been fired for incompetence, so the SMU team was not given any passwords and had to break into most of the computers to gain access. While attempting to ensure services were running correctly and securely, the team had to handle several additional tasks like creating a VPN and enabling IPv6 support. Several hardware failures created additional complications. In its first year at the competition, SMU’s team was able to work together to perform exceedingly well, creating a remarkably effective team atmosphere for a group that had only existed for a few months.

The entire event was a great success for SMU’s Security program, providing excellent visibility for both the school and the students who attended the competition. SMU will compete again next spring in the NCCDC, leveraging its experience from this year, as well as extended preparation time, to build upon its successes. All of the students who attended remain interested and excited about future group events and security competitions.

SMU has been in the forefront of education and training in Cyber Security and Information Assurance and has been designated as one of the National Centers of Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the National Security Agency (NSA). The Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) department at SMU Lyle School offers several courses to cover traditional and leading-edge aspects of security. Currently, CSE offers a Masters Degree program in SecurityEngineering and a Certificate program in Information Security. The High Assurance Computing and Networking (HACNet) Lab, founded in 1996 and backed by more than 20 years of research in security, reliability, and systems engineering is SMU’s premier security laboratory for education and research on cyber security.

Deloitte is the largest professional services firm in the world. In a world that is increasing reliant on technology,
Deloitte is prepared for the challenges of a growing cyberspace. Deloitte recognizes that Cybersecurity is “Everyone’s imperative” and there is a need for a holistic and transnational solution that involves more than just technology. Deloitte has invested heavily in Cybersecurity research, with more than 50 Security and Forensics Labs across the globe and the Center for Cyber Innovation (CCI) in Rosslyn, VA. The CCI develops cyber solutions for clients in the public and private sectors who are seeking to improve information sharing, collaboration and performance by harnessing the power of increasingly interdependent networks.