Winners of Iowa State's first Cyber Defense Competition quick to counter attacks

AMES, Iowa -- They were quicker to fight off attacks and kept their computer network alive better than the others.

And so they walked away with the gift certificates. But the winners of the first Cyber Defense Competition at Iowa State University on Friday and Saturday, April 22 and 23, said the competition was about a lot more than a prize.

Alex Pease, a sophomore in computer engineering from Princeton, Ill., and a member of the winning team, said the 27-hour competition was fun and educational.

Setting up networks and protecting them from a team of hackers "is something that we all enjoy doing," Pease said. Besides, he said the competition was the first time he had set up a computer intrusion detection system. He said it was useful to learn how the system determined whether something was attacking the network.

Sean Howard, a senior from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and another member of the winning team, said the competition was a good way to bring theory and ingenuity together. He also said it was a chance to learn from other students.

The rest of the winning team included Alex's twin brother Andrew Pease, a sophomore from Princeton, Ill.; Ben Blakely, a freshman from Alleman, Iowa; Bryan Venteicher, a junior from Pella, Iowa; Thad Gillispie, a graduate student from Ames, Iowa; and Andrew Chase, a freshman from Marshalltown, Iowa.

Doug Jacobson, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who led the competition's team of judges, said the winners managed to keep their computer systems operating for most of the competition.

"They did a good job responding to the things that happened," Jacobson said. "We were very impressed with them."

Adam Kaufman, an information security analyst for the state of Iowa who led a team of Ames and Des Moines computer professionals as they attacked the students' computer networks, said all six teams showed imagination.

"The winning team's edge was their experience, which was reflected in their response to our attacks," he said. "They were quicker than the other teams."