The University of Tulsa hosted the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) on March 17-19. The CCDC is a national level cyber defense competition that tasks teams of 8 college students each to defend a mock corporate network against professional penetration testers.
Over the course of sixteen hours, the team of students act out the equivalent of two months pretending to be an IT firm for a mock business. The students have to protect the network as attackers (Red Team) try to gain access both digitally and physically.
The CCDC tests leadership, teamwork, technical/business skills and knowledge. The teams are scored based on their service up-time, responses to the “White Team” (the mock business), policy write-ups and implementation, and finally, a presentation on a selected topic.
At the beginning of qualifiers, regionals and nationals, each competing team is given identical hardware and software. However, the business scenario changes for each tier. For regionals, the teams were a mock-trucking business, operating primarily on the cloud and with a telematics system. The teams aren’t given any prior warning as to what system or network they will be working with. Teams are not allowed to bring any technology to the competitions; they’re only allowed to bring paper, manuals, books and the skills they’ve developed through coursework and internships. Since little information is given prior to the competitions, the teams rely heavily on a firm understanding of their roles and a strong sense of communication.
The University of Tulsa has been competing in CCDC for 10 years now Last year was their first time winning Regionals, advancing them to Nationals. Since the team won Regionals, the University was granted the opportunity to host this year’s regionals for the first time ever, at which the TU team won again.
The team was selected based on interest and skill level, made up mostly of computer science majors, and for the first time, two Computer Information Systems majors: seniors Ashley Etter and Jenna Waters.
“CCDC is a very technically challenging, strategic competition that requires an enormous amount of preparation for the team to perform at their best,” Waters said. “It was easily one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had while attending the University of Tulsa.”
Waters said she “primarily developed and wrote the policies, memos, incident response reports and any responses or reports requested from the “White Team.” I also researched Cloud service firewalls, IDSs and learned federal regulations and best-practice guidances surrounding telematics systems.”
Meanwhile, Etter said “the experience was demanding at times, surprising and exciting. I enjoyed the competition because it allowed me to experience a real-life scenario of taking care of business needs, professionalism, solving problems and working collaboratively as a team. At Nationals, I hope to be able to provide our organization with policies that are more creative and unique but still cover all aspects required.”
When asked what her favorite part of the experience was, Etter stated that she “loved researching upgrade solutions for telematics systems and presenting to our company CEO with my findings. It forced me to learn a lot about something I didn’t know much about at and be able to speak and answer questions about it with confidence. I also enjoyed thinking about the different scenarios that Red Team could find out information and problem solving to keep them at bay — such as covering our door with papers so that the Red Team were unable to see what was going on in our room, and closing the blinds to prevent any sight from drones.”
Waters, Etter and the rest of the University of Tulsa team will compete along nine other regional winners at Nationals in San Antonio, on April 13-15, 2017.