National Cyber League Team Performance Shows Growth of Cybersecurity at NDSU

Students excel in cybersecurity competition, showing how much they've learned at NDSU

NCL Team at Work

North Dakota State University students participated in the National Cyber League team competition for the second time the weekend of April 27-29, 2018. Their big jump in competition score shows how far NDSU’s cybersecurity program has come in only a short two semesters.

The top student team, consisting of Isaac Burton, Lucas Miller, Michael Gibbons, Demitrius Fenton and Denise Tang, placed in the top 20 teams out of 250 from colleges and universities nationwide. A second NDSU team took 59th place. Compare this to the fall, when the sole NDSU team took 85th out of 174 teams (though a number of students did well in the individual competitions). Many of these students are the same ones who recently took fourth place out of over 300 teams in the MITRE Corporation competition the previous weekend.

The National Cyber League – or NCL for short – was founded in 2011 to provide, according to the organization, “engaging, entertaining, measurable, and scalable methods of learning to enlist a new generation of cybersecurity professionals.” NCL was founded by the Cyber Security Privacy and Research Institute, the Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance, CyberWatch West, the Mid-Pacific Information and Communication Technologies Center and the National CyberWatch Center.

Our team was much more unified and confident when solving challenges. Our performance speaks for itself and is a result of team cooperation and effort. We have experienced incredible growth and look forward to success in future competitions.

Isaac Burton

NDSU Student

Students who participate in NCL are preparing themselves for work in the cybersecurity field in a variety of roles, including through military service, as a civilian government employee or in the private sector. Many employers look to competitions, like NCL, to help them find strong candidates in this highly competitive field, where employees’ performance is critical to keeping the network secure.

“Cybersecurity skills are in extremely high demand and NCL allows students to show employers that they have skills that can be directly put to use in employers’ real-world environments,” said NDSU Assistant Professor Jeremy Straub, who mentors the National Cyber League Team. Straub is also the associate director of the NDSU Institute for Cybersecurity Education and Research. “The competition is really exciting for the students. More importantly, it helps them learn and gain experience using industry-relevant skills. It builds on what we can teach in class and labs, providing challenging puzzles for the students to work on.”

As part of the competition, the students had to demonstrate their cybersecurity skills in multiple areas including open source intelligence, cryptography, scanning, password cracking, log analysis, network traffic analysis, wireless access and web application exploitation and enumeration and exploitation. In the areas of scanning, log analysis, network traffic analysis and enumeration and exploitation, the top NDSU team received all of the available points.

In just a few months, NDSU has become a cybersecurity competition player to be reckoned with. The team spent much of the competition in the top 10 before being overtaken by others in the last day or so of the competition.

“Our team was much more unified and confident when solving challenges.  Our performance speaks for itself and is a result of team cooperation and effort,” said Burton. “We have experienced incredible growth and look forward to success in future competitions.”

The NCL team benefits from and also provides students a way to expand upon the skills they’ve learned in their coursework. In particular, during the spring semester, NDSU has offered an ethical hacking course for the first time ever, which has helped prepare the students for the competition.

“The National Cyber League has given me a great opportunity to apply the skills I have learned from my classes,” commented Gibbons. “NCL has given me the ability to benchmark my progress and test my skills. I’m happy with how drastically I have improved compared to the first time I did NCL.”

Twelve NDSU students participated in the NCL team competition in the spring of 2018.

Source: NDSU Computer Science


Categories: IT Security

Tags: competition, computer science, cybersecurity, hacking, national cyber league, NDSU, North Dakota, security


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About NDSU Computer Science

The NDSU Computer Science Department was founded in 1988 (though computer science courses were offered as part of Mathematical Sciences since 1973). It occupies 7,460 square feet and has approximately 600 graduate and undergraduate student majors.