The Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NECCDC) is an exciting opportunity for student teams to hone cyber defense skills in a real-world scenario. In 2014, the national winning team was invited to visit with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House. In a nutshell, the competition gives student teams the opportunity to assume responsibility for the information technology operations of a simulated organization.

What is the NECCDC?

IT Security word cloudThe NECCDC is an annual event in cyber defense. In the competition, ten student teams will be tasked with protecting the information technology infrastructure of a simulated organization. Students are held accountable for maintaining the organization’s critical technology services, commonly including DNS, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, and SMTP. At the same time, students must respond to business challenges issued by the simulated organization’s leadership. Business initiatives frequently involve writing information security policies, performing audits to ensure regulatory compliance, and explaining technical concepts to less technical audiences.

The NECCDC is an authentic experience in cyber defense, as students must mitigate the consequences of attacks launched by professional penetration testers from the industry. The penetration testers form the competition’s “red team”, and they bring a slew of cyber attacks to the NECCDC each year. While some hacks are well-known, others are zero-day attacks that have received little or no publicity.

The competition is broken into regional qualifiers, and winners of the qualifiers advance to the national competition. Schools competing in past NECCDCs have included Alfred State College, Champlain College, Northeastern University, Rochester Institute of Technology, State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, University of Maine, University of Massachusetts Boston, University of New Hampshire, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

What’s it like to compete in the NECCDC?

As a past participant in the NECCDC, I can tell you that the competition is a very exciting experience for student competitors. At the same time, the competition is stressful: student teams are actively attacked by the red teams. Student teams, known as “blue teams”, gain points for keeping their services accessible. When services are unavailable, points are not awarded. Blue teams also receive points for answering business challenges accurately and completely.

I would rate competing in the NECCDC as an extremely rewarding experience. Syracuse University has competed in the NECCDC for the past two years, and the competition offers a great learning opportunity for students. It’s one thing to learn about information security practices and procedures in the classroom. It’s quite another thing, however, to actually apply those skills to harden computer systems and circumvent cyber attacks launched by industry professionals.

Information Security

Where, when, and how is the NECCDC being held?

We are excited to announce that the 2015 NECCDC will be hosted by Syracuse University’s iSchool. The competition will be held from Friday, March 20 to Sunday, March 22 in Hinds Hall. The NECCDC will draw hundreds of information security specialists and cyber-savvy students to the Syracuse University campus for the entire weekend, presenting an excellent opportunity for professional networking. Competitors on each of the ten student teams will have the chance to meet these cyber security specialists, as well as network with each other.

Sponsors for the NECCDC currently include Akamai, the US Department of Homeland Security, Raytheon, Northwestern Mutual, CSSIA, Susquehanna International GroupDell, and Robert Ford, CPA. Hosting the NECCDC affirms the iSchool’s commitment to advancing knowledge, skills, and careers in information and cyber security.

How can I get involved?

To make this event a success, we’ll need serious help from both students and staff. We will be designing and implementing fourteen new computer networks for the event, configuring workstations and servers for the blue teams, running cables, managing social media, and more. The opportunities to help are endless!

If you are interested in getting involved, send us an email and we’ll get back to you with more details. The NECCDC is also being sponsored by the iSchool’s recently founded Information Security Club, so stay tuned for communications from that group on more ways you can be involved. You should also follow @NECCDC2015 on Twitter for updates.

For more information about the competition, please visit the NECCDC website.