WWU computer science team snags 2nd at cyber defense competition

Western Today staff

A team of eight undergraduate Computer Science students from Western Washington University participated in the 4th Annual Pacific Rim Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition at Highline Community College on March 19-20, finishing a close second behind only the team from the University of Washington.

In this competition, student teams from eight community colleges and universities were presented with pre-configured computer systems of a fictitious company that they are tasked to operate. The evil red team, in a separate room, however, attempted to vandalize and break into this network. The student teams needed to defend against the attacks of this red team. The red team members were all cyber-defense professionals from Boeing, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force.

The goals for each team were to:

  • Prevent break-ins by the red team
  • Keep services operational
  • Fulfill assigned business tasks

This was the first time that WWU has sent a team to the PRCCDC. The team formed only two months prior to the competition and had limited time for training and tactical preparation. They did not have high expectations but regarded the event as a valuable learning experience.

Western’s team was made up of team leader Joe Bialek of Sammamish; Jonah Jolley of Freeland; Kyle Brady of Kalispell, Mont.; James Bucher of Richland; Alex Wipf of Edmonds, RJ (Ronald) Harding of Yelm; Mason Bially of Port Angeles; and Alex Eveleth of Pullman.

“Our weakest category was goal 3, fulfilling assigned business tasks, where the team placed fourth. This was the area in which the team had no preparation and very little idea of what to expect, purely due to lack of experience in cyber defense competitions. The team was informed that, with improvement in technical writing and oral presentation skills, they would probably have won the competition,” said Western Professor of Computer Science David Bover, who took the team to Highline and helped it prepare for the competition. “One thing that became obvious during the weekend was the intense interest of employers in recruiting students who displayed the capability, initiative and preparation to put in the hard work required to perform well in such an intense competition. There are excellent career prospects for our graduates.”

PRCCDC is co-sponsored by The Boeing Co., Microsoft and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) with additional support from the Central Intelligence Agency, Deloitte Touche, IOActive, City University of Seattle, the Committee on National Security Systems and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories.

Bover noted that attending the competition wouldn’t have been possible without the financial help of Arlan Norman, WWU’s Dean of the College of Sciences and Technology, and Geoff Matthews, the chair of Western’s Computer Science Department.

For more information on Western’s involvement in the PRCCDC, contact David Bover at david.bover@wwu.edu or (360) 650-4894.