Students Thwart Cyber Criminals in Security Competition

Students Thwart Cyber Criminals in Security Competition
The Cal Poly Pomona team competes in last year's Western Regional Cyber Defense Competition.

Area college students will test their knowledge of network security while fending off cyber attacks and battling sleep deprivation in one of the most intense cyber security competitions in the nation.  

For the second year in a row, Cal Poly Pomona's Computer Information Systems Department will host the Western Regional Cyber Defense Competition on March 27-29. Eight-member student teams from Cal Poly Pomona, Mt. San Antonio College, Cal State San Bernardino, Sacramento State, Westwood College and Arizona's University of Advancing Technology will compete on campus. The winning team receives a free trip and a chance to compete for the national title in April at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

During three days of competition, students will function as network and security administrators for a fictional company. While students perform routine tasks, such as establishing employee e-mail accounts, a group of industry experts will attempt to threaten the computer infrastructure of each team. To make the competition even more challenging this year, teams will have to protect their network for 24 consecutive hours.

The team that can provide the most security to their network wins the competition.

“The competition is a realistic scenario of a company in crisis,” says Computer & Information Systems Professor Dan Manson, who also is the event organizer. “If the student teams know what it's like to survive this trial by fire, they can be an asset to a company in the real world.”

During competition breaks, students will meet with industry experts in cyber security and listen to speeches from Mikhael Felker of The Aerospace Corporation, Alan Greenberg of The Boeing Co., and Shanit Gupta of Foundstone, a McAfee division.

Cal Poly Pomona is well-suited to host this competition. It is one of a select group of universities in the country that has been designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency (NSA). Earlier this year, the NSA commended the university for being “well positioned to help ensure the nation is protected from future cyber vulnerabilities and attacks through the students you educate and the research opportunities you provide.”

Not only is Cal Poly Pomona doing its part to make the country safer from cyber criminals, it is helping students receive high-paying jobs, despite the recession. Over the next few years, the NSA plans to fill 1,300 positions a year and will recruit from Centers of Academic Excellence such as Cal Poly Pomona.

The Western Regional Cyber Defense Competition is sponsored by Boeing with additional support from the Southern California chapter of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA), the Los Angeles chapter of Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), McAfee, The Aerospace Corporation, Logic Security and the Regional Information Systems Security Consortium.

For more information on the Western Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, visit