Welcome to the BYU Cyber Security Research Laboratory

Gender-equal Team of BYU IT Students Win Regional Collegiate Cyber-Defense Competition.

BYU IT Team Wins Regional Cyber Defense Competition

Four women and four men from BYU’s IT program will join with 7 other elite regional collegiate teams in April in the National CCDC competition as they compete to keep some of the nation’s best hackers out of their networks.

Eight students from Brigham Young University’s Information Technology program and the BYU Cybersecurity Research Laboratory (CSRL) walked away with first place in the regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) hosted by Regis University in Denver, Colorado last weekend. The competition involved defending a city’s computer infrastructure from malicious hackers, conducting network forensics, and working with the Mayor’s office to keep critical services online - all while protecting the citizen’s private information.

The BYU team stood out in every way. "We had a gender balanced team" said Dr. Dale Rowe, BYU professor and team coach. "I’ve long believed that we need both men and women working side by side to address our cybersecurity problems. Our past competitions have shown us that having women on the team brings a unique technical perspective. We know gender diversity is critical in being able to see the bigger picture." BYU's female competitors made up 80% of all the women participants from 7 schools.

Bringing an equal number of men and women wasn’t the only thing that helped them stand out. "We have several gamers, so we designed t-shirts and hoodies pro-gamer style. When we arrived, everyone was asking about our uniforms" said Laura Wilkinson, BYU Senior and Team Captain. The clothing, and trip were paid for by generous support from CyTech Services, Inc, the BYU College of Engineering and Technology and the BYU School of Technology.

But perhaps the thing that stood out most was the team’s unity and spirit. "I thought everyone was amazing in that we communicated well and knew how to break the ice when things got rough" said Cara Cornel. "Even when we were struggling or our services started to go down, we kept our spirits up and worked together through laughter and good attitudes" added Sarah Cunha. This was noticed by the organizers and sponsors throughout the weekend as Laura notes: "Everyone continually complimented us for our entertainment value, energy, professionalism, and communication levels". Dr. Rowe added: "We had a unique opportunity to send eight of our best students and they made us proud."

Participating team members include: Laura Wilkinson (IT Senior, Team Lead), Cara Cornel (IT Junior), Jacob Crowther (IT Senior), Sarah Cunha (IT Senior), Andres Martinson (IT Senior), Jonathan Mercado (IT Graduate Student), Chandler Newby (IT Graduate Student), and Whitney Winders (IT Senior)

Background Information

The BYU Information Technology program is the designated program for BYU’s status as an NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. Security is taught across the curriculum and students receive an education in a variety of cybersecurity domains. The program has been ABET accredited since 2004.

The BYU Cybersecurity Research Laboratory is a mostly undergraduate research laboratory of 9 women and 3 men (2016) who work on a variety of research and outreach projects.

Women make up less than 20% of the cybersecurity workforce, and despite recent research reports showing the benefits of mixed cybersecurity teams, the gap between men and women in the field is widening.

Dr. Rowe is an Asst. Professor in the IT program and Director of the CSRL. He has coached CCDC teams since 2012 with his teams taking 1st place 3 times in local invitational CCDC’s and 3rd place twice in Regional CCDC’s prior to this event. Together they have published over 30 articles in peer reviewed conferences and journals across 4 continents since 2011.

Published: March 6, 2016.

Related articles

BYU IT Students Defend 1st place for the Third Consecutive Time in NIATEC CCDC.

BYU Students Secure a First Place Hat-Trick at 2015 NIATEC CCDC

Students from the BYU Cybersecurity Research Lab secured a first-place hat-trick by successfully defending their systems from attack for the third year running. The NIATEC Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition is based on real-world scenarios where students are provided a representative environment of servers, workstations and procedures. Dealing with unsecured systems, weak passwords and an aggressive red-team intent on hacking their network, the team must work together to secure their infrastructure, maintain critical services, respond to management requests and perform incident response. This year saw the teams handling forensic investigations, training staff and performing their own security audits. Benefiting from their experience on the BYU CSRL Red and Blue teams and a history of successful competitions, BYU's two teams ranked first and fourth out of 7 contenders from colleges along the Wasatch Front.

The first place team, from BYU's Information Technology program included freshman Kaylee Richmond, junior student Andrew Nelson, senior Andres Martinson and graduate student Jonathan Mercado. Team coach Dr. Dale Rowe commented:

"This year was unusual. We had some last minute travel complications and the result was five out of our eight students joined the teams less than a weak prior to the competition. They had no coaching, mentoring or experience other than their IT education and CSRL research projects. All the students, including freshmen made critical contributions that combined, earned them first place."

The second team took fourth place and consisted of junior Cara Cornel, seniors Wesley Haws and Tanner Johnson and graduate student Brendan Abbott.

Asked whether they think they can win next year the students stated they are "Hopeful, but the competition is getting tougher every year. We really love that NIATEC is willing to put on these events and get a lot out of the opportunity."

BYU IT Students Celebrating 1st place in NIATEC CCDC.

BYU Students Defend 1st Place Title

BYU's IT students took first place for the second time in a row at the National Information Assurance Training and Education Center at Idaho State University in November. The first place team was comprised of graduate student Steve Christiaens, senior Chandler Newby, and juniors Laura Wilkinson and Sarah Cunha. Each member will receive a $1,000 prize scholarship from the NSA. The Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) involved 10 teams going head-to-head to maintain services, handle injects and defend against a barrage of red-team attacks from professional penetration testers. Students were presented with a national pandemic scenario and were required to keep vital services available and updated throughout the event.

Two other teams from BYU also participated, placing 4th (graduate student Whitney Maxwell, senior Samuel Moses, and juniors Nate Baker and Brenden Abbot) and 5th (graduate student Jon Mercado, seniors Andres Martinson and Ross Woodside, and sophmore Allie Larson). The first place team was congratulated for being the most effective at repelling attacks from the NIATEC Red Team, and the 4th place team received special mention for being that team that had their services most consistently available.

All of the teams are coached by Dr. Dale Rowe, Assistant Professor of IT at Brigham Young University. All CCDC teams are composed of BYU Red and Blue team members, who regularly volunteer to help secure departments across the BYU campus, as well as local businesses.

12/20/2014 - Nate Baker

BYU CSRL Red Team students conducting a real penetration test for an external organization.

At the Juncture of Research and Learning

Hands-on activities such as those performed by the Red and Blue teams provide exposure to real-world cyber-security issues and help students develop key skills.

As well as performing these assessments both on, and off campus, CSRL researchers compete regionally and nationally in cyber-defense competitions and create their own semi-annual Capture The Flag (CTF) contest for their peers.

The CSRL is part of the Information Technology program.  This allows for the applied nature of IT to synergize with cutting-edge research to bring the latest and greatest ideas into the classroom at every opportunity.

BYU IT Students Celebrating 1st and 3rd place in NIATEC CCDC.

BYU Students Repel 100% of Attacks...

BYU Information Technology students took first place at the National Information Assurance Training and Education Center at Idaho State University in February.  The team of four included graduate Scott Pack, senior Joel Wenerstrom and juniors Chandler Newby and Laura Wilkinson.  Each member will receive a $1,000 prize scholarship from the NSA.  The Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) involved going head-to-head against 5 other teams to maintain services, handle injects and defend against a barrage of red-team attacks from professional penetration testers.  Students were presented a small-business heathcare merger scenario and had to combine different IT networks in the process.  After the event, the Red Team congratulated the BYU IT team on being the only team to successfully resist all attacks throughout the day-long engagement.  A second BYU team of IT students also competed and received third place.  (Graduate student Jed Montgomery, juniors Taylor Buerger and Brenden Abbott and sophomore Sarah Cunha).  The teams are coached by Dr. Dale Rowe, Assistant Professor of IT.

The Cyber-Competition Teams are composed of members from the BYU Red and Blue teams who regularly volunteer to help secure departments accross the BYU campus as well as local businesses.

Information Technology

Related Articles

Gender-equal Team of BYU IT Students... more
BYU IT Students Defend 1st place for... more
11th International Conference on... more
ASEE 2015 Annual Conference Student... more
2016 - Girls Summer Camp 4 Days... more

CSRL Sponsors

Adobe Mountain States