February 26, 2008

'Security Dawgs' just miss top spot in state contest

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Just 1.5 points. That's the slim margin that kept Southern Illinois University Carbondale Cyber Defense Team from taking the top spot at the recent state competition.

SIUC took second place for Illinois at the Indiana/Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition earlier this month at Fort Wayne, Ind., behind DePaul University.

"I think it's a fantastic job," said Belle S. Woodward, assistant professor in the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies, and the team's faculty adviser. "They made me so proud. As they were finishing their business injects we heard, 'Southern Illinois is in first place.' For a moment we were. The judges commented they were impressed with our team. They said they love to walk into the Southern Illinois room, it's a very relaxed environment, and the students are so professional and have the ability to work so well together. We are truly getting a great team. There's always next year."

In fact, Woodward said the SIUC team practiced with outdated equipment until just two weeks before the state contest. At that time, it received new state-of-the-art equipment thanks to a $23,600 grant from the State Farm Companies Foundation. That equipment, along with time to train with it and the hard work and enthusiasm of the team members, may just take the SIUC team to the top spot and a chance to compete at the regional contest next year, Woodward said.

The eight-member SIUC spent many hours since October preparing for the collegiate exercise in security defense and protection of information technology infrastructure and networks. The "Security Dawgs" represent the SIUC School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies within the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

Each team begins the collegiate competition with identical functioning networks, each having vulnerabilities and each fighting off challenges and attacks including viruses, service denials and other problems while completing business "injects," similar to the assignments they would have in the real information technology world. How well they complete their assignments and keep their systems running while fighting off technological attacks and protecting against vulnerabilities determines their score.

And, for SIUC, it was a matter of oh, so close, to a regional competition berth in 2008. Judging for Illinois and Indiana universities and colleges was separate, but SIUC took second in the state and third in the overall scoring, behind Indiana Tech and DePaul.

The SIUC Cyber Defense Competition Team includes, listed by hometown:

Du Quoin: Trent House, a senior information systems technologies major.

Edwardsville: Chris Helmkamp, a senior information systems technologies major.

Lake Villa: Erik Kressner, a senior information systems technologies major.

Marion: Marshall Riley, a senior computer science major.

Peoria: Aaron Ragusa, a senior information systems technologies major. Bert "Mike" Sanders, a senior computer science major.

Pontiac: Timmy Davis, the team captain and only returning member from last year's SIUC Cyber Defense team, a senior majoring in information systems technologies.

Princeton: Dave Loftus, a sophomore political science major.