National Cyber Defense Competition at Iowa State challenges, prepares students

National Cyber Defense Competition

Teams of students from Iowa State and other universities will test their ability to fight off hackers during Saturday's National Cyber Defense Competition on the Iowa State Campus. Larger image. Photo by Iowa State's Information Assurance Student Group.

AMES, Iowa – The holiday headlines about stolen credit and debit card numbers were a reminder that cyber security can’t be taken for granted.

And so the National Cyber Defense Competition at Iowa State University is a lot more than an academic exercise.

“Yes, this does matter,” said Doug Jacobson, a University Professor of electrical and computer engineering who studies cyber security and is one of the contest’s organizers. “We need to train people to protect our data and systems.”

The contest will bring 10 teams and 75 students to Coover Hall’s Transformative Learning Area (Room 1313) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8. The contest is designed to challenge experienced cyber defense teams.

This year’s competition includes teams from Iowa State, the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, DePaul University in Chicago and Kansas State University in Manhattan.

The competition is free and open to the public.

Jacobson said the competition offers students experience they don’t get in a textbook or classroom.

“Students get a real-world experience that they can’t get elsewhere,” he said. “It’s a pretty intense experience to defend against adversaries who do cyber defense for a living. The students will see real-world attacks and try to defend against them in a hectic environment. They’ll have to try to keep their wits about them.”

Successful teams prepare for weeks, secure their networks, document their strategies and maintain a usable network.

The competitions are made possible by ISEAGE, the Internet-Scale Event and Attack Generation Environment developed at Iowa State. The technology creates a virtual Internet for cyber security research and training.