Securing the Web Takes Team Effort

Securing the Web Takes Team Effort
Cyber defense team members compete in the western regional competition at Cal Poly Pomona.

From computers to horses, cars to diplomacy, co-curricular activities at Cal Poly Pomona help students develop important qualities, such as leadership, discipline and self confidence. Most important, students learn to work successfully with a team. This article is the first in a series that spotlights teamwork in action at Cal Poly Pomona.

The Cyber Defense made it to this year's nationals, held in April in San Antonio. The team scored a spot there by taking top prize at the Western Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, which Cal Poly Pomona hosted in March. Among the schools defeated were Cal State San Bernardino and Sacramento State.

The annual competition requires student teams to protect a computer network against attacks over three days, including a period of 24 consecutive hours. It's similar to living an episode of “24,” the Fox television show in which every minute counts and the intensity never wanes. The team that does the best job of protecting a network from security breaches competes for the national title in Texas.

Prior to the regional competition, the eight Cal Poly Pomona team members spent nearly every Saturday during winter quarter at a university computer lab, mastering operating systems and learning the latest in cyber security.

Computer Information Systems professor Dan Manson, who was instrumental in bringing the competition to Cal Poly Pomona, says the event adds a greater depth to students' coursework.

“In a classroom environment, the expectations are clear. What students need to know is well defined, and they're given adequate amount of time to prepare,” Manson says. “In the cyber defense competition, there are no limits on what students have to respond to.”

Although Cal Poly Pomona did not take home the top prize in Texas (that went to Baker College of Flint, Mich.), it was an honor to participate among the nation's top schools, which included Texas A&M, the University of North Carolina (Charlotte) and the University of Washington. CIS student and cyber defense team member Jeff Henbest didn't mind giving up his Saturdays to prepare for the Western Regional.

“It's completely worth it,” Henbest says. “We're getting real-world experience you can't get in the classroom. This is why we're here.”