Cyber Safe

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Click here to view video To fend off system viruses and other technology attacks, a team of…

Georgia (Apr 3, 2014)

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To fend off system viruses and other technology attacks, a team of Kennesaw State University information security students is putting its talents and skills to work.

The eight-student team competed in the Southeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, a hands-on information security competition sponsored by the Center for Information Security Education in the Coles College of Business.

Student teams from eight universities are given a scenario at the start of the three-day competition:  They must protect and operate their hypothetical company’s network, which was left in disarray by the previous IT staff.

“When the competition begins, the first thing teams do is make their computers and networks safe, as they’d do in any business, and then work to make them better,” said Herb Mattord, assistant director of the Center for Information Security Education and assistant professor of information security and assurance in the Coles College.

The student teams evaluate and improve their systems and network, while a steady stream of business-related assignments flow in. Students must complete time-critical tasks and keep their technology  the fictitious company’s email system, website and network  operating, while defending it from a determined group of attackers. These attackers are information security professionals who are hurling real-world problems at the teams, such as viruses and malware, in an attempt to penetrate the team’s fictitious network.

With a healthy dose of mischief, organizations such as the Department of Homeland Security, Raytheon Corporation, SunTrust, Dell SecureWorks, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), HP Global Cyber Security, Idology, Lares Consulting, LMBC, Inc., Strategic Cyber LLC and Fishnet Security attempt to penetrate the teams’ fictitious networks.

This is the ninth year that the competition has been held at Kennesaw State.

“This is a competition designed for students interested in the convergence of business, security and risk management,” said Mattord. “Students must do the work of the business while delivering technology services while in a hostile environment.

“The focus is on the secure implementation of technology in business, rather than just the technology. The trick is to make technology as secure as possible while keeping the business operating,” he explained.  

Ashley Butler, 22, a senior majoring in Information Security and Assurance at Kennesaw State, finds the competition “nerve racking.”

“We are trying to configure our network technically while we are completing business assignments given to us by management,” said Butler, who is currently an intern at SAP, a software company.

“For me, the competition has taught me how to deal with pressure. I have learned to handle incident response, manage business continuity and communicate during crises. It may never be this intense in a job, but this has been a good balance of technology and business challenges,” she added.  

Kennesaw State boasts the state’s only bachelor’s degree in Information Security and Assurance and became only the second university in the U.S. to offer a bachelor’s degree in information security and assurance. Kennesaw State also has been named a National Center of Academic Excellence, a National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security designation.

“The ISA program at Kennesaw State is creating business professionals who can talk to technologists, not just techies who can talk business,” said Mattord. “We train our students how to craft secure technology solutions needed by businesses.”

“Often, so much effort is spent on technical defense by some companies that they forget the business side of things,” he added. “We also emphasize what must happen after the systems have been compromised, like how to restore the systems to normal operations.”

Student teams are assessed by automated scoring tools and judged by regional IT professionals throughout the competition while being scrutinized and attacked. The winner of the regional competition will advance to the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in San Antonio, Texas, April 22-25.


- Tiffany Capuano; Photo by David Caselli 


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit