Tennessee Tech Continues to Place Among the Top in the Nation in Fall 2020 National Cyber League – Individual Game

For Immediate Release
Contact:  Eric Brown, cerocmedia@tntech.edu, 931-372-3519

Cookeville, TN – Tennessee Tech Computer Science students and CyberEagles members have completed another very successful individual game season as part of the 2020 National Cyber League (NCL) competition conducted October 23-25, 2020. A total of 25 members of the CyberEagles Capture the Flag (CTF) Cyber Interest Group competed in this season. Five members of the group, four of which are CyberCorps SFS Scholars, scored in the Top 100 in the nation. To place this accomplishment in perspective, the competition hosted 6,013 participants in this year’s individual game. Congratulations to Nick Stone placing 68th, Jacob Sweeten placing 60th, Joshua Vick placing 26th, and Austin Brown placing 22nd. A special congratulations goes to Andy Brown who finished 9th in the nation with 2,735 points out of an available 3000 with an 83.77% accuracy rate. Cyber Range Engineer at the Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center (CEROC) and team advisor, Travis Lee, said “these students continue to learn and do a fantastic job. I think our students’ efforts are starting to show when you look at how far all of them have come in events such as this.” 

“These types of competitions provide essential ‘out of classroom’ experiences which these students will need in the upcoming careers” noted Eric Brown, Assistant Director for CEROC. “The successful outcomes of this competition are a unique combination of the incredible students with which we interact every day, an excellent computer science program with the best overall cybersecurity program in the state, and professional growth provided by the peer mentoring opportunities afforded by the cybersecurity interest groups within CyberEagles. We say it often… our students are the life-blood of our center.”

NCL seeks to provide an ongoing virtual training ground for participants to develop, practice, and validate their cybersecurity knowledge and skills using next-generation high-fidelity simulation environments. 

One of the distinguishing factors of the NCL is the integration of learning objectives in all its activities. One of the main ways this is accomplished is by aligning customized content available in NCL Gymnasiums with simulations and games available in the NCL Stadium. This allows players to use the Gym environment to develop knowledge and skills and then demonstrate these newly acquired skills in competitive individual and team play. It also allows the NCL to measure player’s game performance and produce individualized reports (NCL Scouting Report) on strengths and weakness among various learning objectives and industry-recognized competencies. For more information about NCL, goto https://www.nationalcyberleague.org/about.  

From here, the students will continue to the team-based portion of the season with the team game being held November 6-8, 2020. All of these games are conducted online, a helpful reality during this time of social distancing and COVID-19 restrictions. 

CEROC: Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center at Tennessee Tech University, under the direction of Dr. Ambareen Siraj, is a center of excellence in the College of Engineering focused on crowd-sourced education programs; research in emerging cybersecurity topics; and outreach programs to stakeholders in academia, government and industry. CEROC is an NSA-accredited Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE), host of the first and largest CyberCorps SFS program in the State of Tennessee, and host of the only DoD Cyber Scholarship program site in the state placing the center among the top tier of such centers in the nation. CEROC, via Dr. Siraj’s work, is also the founding group for the Women in Cybersecurity Conference, the largest conference of its type focusing on enhancing diversity within the cybersecurity workforce. More information about CEROC and its programs can be found at https://www.tntech.edu/ceroc or by sending an email to ceroc@tntech.edu

Tennessee Tech’s CEROC Hosts CPTC Central Region Competition for Second Year

For Immediate Release
Contact:  Eric Brown, elbrown@tntech.edu, 931-372-3519

Cookeville, TN – The Cybersecurity Education, Research and Outreach Center (CEROC) at Tennessee Tech University hosted the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition – Central Region on October 10-11, 2020.  This represents the fourth year that Tennessee Tech has participated in the event and the second year to host the regional competition. Like so many other events, COVID-19 has changed the way events are conducted. This year’s event was completely virtual with some participating teams having members working from different locations. It was truly a distributed event. The top winning team from this region will join the winners from the other CPTC regions around the world, which include Canada and the Middle East, for the international competition. Seven additional teams will be selected at large to compete in the international competition.

Competing in the Central Region in addition to Tennessee Tech are the University of Northern Iowa, Kansas State University, Southeast Missouri State University, University of Tulsa, University of Texas at San Antonio, Southern Methodist University, Purdue University, North Dakota State University, and Drexel University. IBM served as the national sponsor for the event. The event was locally sponsored by CEROC. “We are excited to be re-selected as the host site for this regional competition. CEROC hosts a number of outreach events throughout the year. We enjoy events like this where we can meet with our peer institutions even if it is only virtual,” said Dr. Ambareen Siraj, CEROC’s director.

As described by the organization, “The Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC) provides a vehicle for up and coming cybersecurity student teams to build and hone the skills required to effectively discover, triage, and mitigate critical security vulnerabilities. This competition is unique in offering a simulated environment that mimics real world networks. The competition focuses on improving the security posture of a fictitious organization and reporting on risks in a manner that is similar to a real professional environment.” 

Russell Butturini, vice president and security architect at Cadence Bank, a regional commercial-focused bank with 99 branches across the Southeast, provided the keynote address for the region’s award ceremony. Butturini, a long time friend to CEROC, encouraged the students to always be curious, seek to grow personal capacities, and seek to grow stronger teams through collaborative, immersive learning opportunities such as CPTC. Butturini also held a Q&A session immediately following the keynote address.

The competition incorporates skill sets involving the use of technology, accurate communication, and effective collaboration. Lucas Morris, a CPTC director, said “there is nothing more exciting than to watch people grow. In my 15 years of serving in security consulting leadership, the biggest challenge for most new professionals is not deep technical skills, but soft skills. Competitions like these help participants to develop those important soft skill sets and prepare them for their future career in the cybersecurity sector. An individual who is passionate about education and has the ability to communicate is incredibly valuable.”

Ten teams competed in this year’s event. The winners for the 2020 regional competition were Drexel University (1st place), Southern Methodist University (2nd place), and Tennessee Tech University (3rd place). The Tennessee Tech University team, by virtue of their incredible performance, is in the running for a wildcard selection for the international competition. Final decisions will be made once all regions have completed their respective events.

Tennessee Tech’s CPTC team hard at work

Participating in this year’s Tennessee Tech team are Austin Brown, Max Layer, Sam Neel, Jacob Sweeten, Austin Tice, and Kaitlyn Carroll.  Travis Lee, Cybersecurity Technologist with CEROC, served as the team coach as well as handling technology logistics for the event.  Eric Brown, assistant director for CEROC, noted “This group is just another example of the high-quality, student professionals which enrich our center’s work.  We are very proud of their accomplishments both in achievement and professional growth.”

CEROC (https://www.tntech.edu/ceroc) is a NSA-designated Center ofAcademic Excellence – Cyber Defense and a CyberCorps SFS participating school since December 2015.  Located in the College of Engineering at Tennessee Tech, CEROC offers a wide variety of services and programs across the pillars of education, research and outreach.  Dr. Ambareen Siraj is the founding director of the center who leads its education, research, and outreach activities.  Dr. Siraj is also the founder of the Women in Cybersecurity conference and organization (https://www.wicys.org/).

More information about the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition can be found at https://nationalcptc.org. More information about the Central Region Competition can be found at https://www.tntech.edu/ceroc/outreach/cptc/.