One of HTCIA’s core values is security, not just via law enforcement but also through critical infrastructure protection. Our members who work in these fields understand that it’s often the hands-on experience that leads to the best problem-solving — both reactive and proactive.
That’s why our SoCal chapter, together with the International Executive Committee, is sponsoring the Western Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. Held at Cal Poly Pomona, the three-day event pits college students (the Blue Team, as network security administrators) against the best security professionals in the business (the Red Team, as criminal hackers). Blue Team members gain points for keeping their network services up and responding to business injects, and lose points each time they are successfully attacked.
Part of the competition’s appeal is that it doesn’t just ask students to defend against hackers; it also asks them to balance security against business needs, including requests for service from end users. Students are also asked to maintain careful documentation of their actions, and to make recommendations on security improvements.
“This is experience that students won’t get any other way,” says Dr. Dan Manson, SoCal 1st Vice President and the event’s administrator. “Because they need more than just technical skills, they learn more in one weekend than they can in an entire year in the classroom.”
Winning Blue Teams have the opportunity to advance to national finals in San Antonio (Texas), where they compete against other regional teams. In 2009, the Western Regional Blue Team finished fourth at nationals — and Boeing interviewed the Cal Poly team as a whole and hired all six graduating members. “At the national competition is where major employers court the students,” says Manson.
While news media coverage of last year’s event was very positive, Manson plans to take it a step further this year by providing Flip cameras to each team, along with roving observers. “They’ll film participants’ back stories and provide a play by play of the competition, almost like a sporting event,” Manson says. He plans to use the video for recruitment purposes.
Ultimately, the WRCCDC provides its participants with the chance to learn “how the real world works,” as Manson puts it. Recent attacks on major security firms including HBGary Federal and RSA, and on governments including France’s, bear this out.
And HTCIA support, in conjunction with sponsorships from industry leaders such as Intel, Cisco, McAfee, and ISACA, reinforces the importance of community involvement in developing the next generation of security professionals.