February 11, 2011

Security Dawgs to compete in cyber defense event

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Keeping track of every piece of information that goes in and out of a corporation’s computer network, particularly fending off unwanted cyber attacks, requires diligence, keen analysis, quick thinking, and teamwork.

Members of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale “Security Dawgs” student cyber defense team will put those skills to the test on Feb. 19 during the Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. SIUC is again one of two sites in the state that will host the competition, which will closely mirror the corporate information technology world.

The participating students will be involved soon enough with “real world” applications upon graduation, said Tom Imboden, an assistant professor in Information Systems and Applied Technologies. “Security Dawg” team members will be looking to get jobs in information assurance and security when they graduate.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition at SIUC Saturday, Feb. 19, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Go to the Computer Learning Center, room 111, in the Applied Sciences and Arts Building C. For more information contact Tom Imboden, Information Systems and Applied Technologies assistant professor, at 618/453-7296 or by e-mail at timboden@siu.edu.

“Employers are becoming increasingly familiar with the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition,” said Imboden, who is faculty adviser for the registered student organization. “The competition is a trial-by-fire activity that shows they know how to work under pressure and have to work as a team. It gives them that little extra bit of experience that they probably wouldn’t get from a standard classroom education.”

The “Security Dawgs” and Lake Land College in Mattoon will compete at SIUC, while Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills hosts DePaul University, DeVry University of Chicago, Illinois State University, University of Illinois-Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Evan Youngblood, the IT manager from The Bank of Carbondale, will be site judge at SIUC to ensure participants follow the rules.

While working to keep their site secure from hackers and unwanted cyber attacks, teams also are responsible for system maintenance, upgrades, and completing other requests, such as installing or upgrading a website. Teams earn points based upon the how successful they are at accomplishing the business tasks, in addition to identifying and stopping hacker attacks, and writing incident reports.

“They will throw some things there that we won’t expect that will make it easier for the red team (bad guys) to break into the system from the outside,” Imboden said.

The SIUC Security Dawgs became a registered student organization in December. The team is comprised of 12 members, including four alternates. The team practices regularly, averaging eight hours a week as a team in addition to on their own, said Belle Woodward, an associate professor also in the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies.

Team members said they like the real-world applications the competition provides.

“I appreciate the way CCDC (Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition) takes working with computers, something often perceived as boring and dull, and turns it into this terribly exciting event that also serves as a fantastic learning opportunity for all those involved,” said Michael Buhman, a junior in information systems technology from Murphysboro and Security Dawgs team leader.

“I’m hoping to use this opportunity in being part of the CCDC to help me further my skills and knowledge in cyber defense,” said Timothy Gallatin, a senior in information systems technology from Pinckneyville.

This year’s squad began practice soon after last year’s competition ended, Woodward said.

Team members will have homework, such as learning how to set up an email server, that they research and present to teammates in practicing for the competition. The team and other members of the registered student organization also participate in community workshops. The next workshop is on wireless Internet security from 2 to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 5.

The Security Dawgs’ success is evident. In state competitions, the team has a first-place finish in 2006, three second-place finishes in 2007, 2008, and 2010, and a third-place finish in 2009. The top two teams advance to the Midwest Regional Competition, March 25-26, also at Moraine Valley Community College. The sixth annual National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition is April 8-10.

Previous team members have been successful getting jobs in the private sector even before they graduate, Woodward said.

The team “is a selling point for them,” she said.

The always-changing technology world also enabled the competition to evolve, she said, recalling early competitions focused on “simply looking at whether we can protect the system.”

“Now, the focus also includes having the ability to monitor and understand the intricacies of the system,” she said.

The Security Dawgs continue to receive valuable support. Aisin and State Farm Insurance each donated $500 apiece for the team, and Core Security Technologies provided software the team uses to practice with.

“We couldn’t do this without these donations,” Woodward said. “If our students didn’t receive funding, they wouldn’t have state-of-the art equipment to practice with and wouldn’t have a chance to compete with their counterparts.”

Competing for SIUC, listed by hometown, major, and year in school are:


  • Danville: Darcie L. Cohee, information systems technologies, junior.
  • LaHarpe: Donnie R. Owsley, information systems technologies, senior.
  • Murphysboro: Michael O. Buhman, information systems technologies, junior.
  • Murphysboro: Gavin L. McDaniel, information systems technologies, senior (alternate).
  • Nashville: Gared M. Seats, information systems technologies, senior.
  • Olney: Ross W. Petty, information systems technologies, electronic systems technologies.
  • Peoria: Anton Castelli, information systems technologies, senior.
  • Pinckneyville: Timothy A. Gallatin, information systems technologies, senior.
  • Streamwood: Ross H. Bennett, information systems technologies, senior, (alternate).
  • Tamaroa: Paul J. Nehrkorn, information systems technologies, senior, (alternate).
  • Trilla: Gregory S. Groves, information systems technologies, senior.


  • Fort Myers: J. Scott Ross, information systems technologies, senior (alternate).