February 29, 2012

Security Dawgs ready for cyber defense contest

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Information systems technology students at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will be keeping watch for unwanted cyber attacks and viruses later this week during the Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

Members of the SIU Carbondale “Security Dawgs” will put the skills they’ve learned during hours of classroom instruction and independent study to use on Saturday, March 3.  The University is again one of three sites in Illinois that will host the statewide competition, which closely mirrors what students will see in the corporate information technology world.

Keeping track of everything associated with a corporation’s computer network takes diligence, keen analysis, quick thinking and teamwork, said Tom Imboden, an assistant professor in Information Systems and Applied Technologies.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition at SIU Carbondale, Saturday, March 3, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Go to the Computer Learning Center, room 112, 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.

The “Security Dawgs” and Lake Land College in Mattoon will compete at SIU Carbondale.  Other schools competing elsewhere in the state are Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, DePaul University, DeVry University of Chicago, Governors State University, Illinois State University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, and Joliet Junior College.

Evan Youngblood, the IT manager from The Bank of Carbondale and a program alumnus, will be the site judge at SIU Carbondale to ensure participants follow the rules.

While working to keep their site secure from 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 on the how successful they are in accomplishing the business tasks, in addition to identifying and stopping hacker attacks, and writing incident reports.

“We are very proud of our Security Dawgs and grateful that we have faculty and alumni who give of their time and treasure to support our collegiate cyber defense competition team,” said Ralph F. Tate, associate professor in Electronic Systems Technologies and interim director of the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies (ISAT).

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to apply the skills and knowledge they have acquired to defend against cyber attacks in this competitive exercise,” he said.  “This is a shining example of what our school is all about:  giving students marketable skills and knowledge, and providing opportunities to ‘test their wings’ and prepare for a successful career in cyber security.”

The team is working hard, Imboden said.

Students who participate on the collegiate cyber defense competition team are actively recruited by public and private sector employers, and participation in these events “is an achievement only the brightest security practitioners can boast,” Imboden said.

Darcie L. Cohee, a senior in information systems technologies from Danville, is the team leader this year.  The competition is an “amazing opportunity” for not only information systems technologies and computer science students “but for anyone who is interested in attaining a better understanding of information security and how it applies to businesses,” she said.

“It’s fun to compete just because of the sheer amount of learning that goes on during those eight hours of the competition,” said Cohee, the daughter of Phil and Jennie Cohee of Danville.

Cohee said the competition would add to her resume.  She spent last summer in Philadelphia on an internship working with the defense division of The Boeing Company -- Boeing Defense, Space and Security.  The event is a great learning experience, said Cohee, who will “focus on anything related to web security for the competition.”

“Any skills I learn between now and the competition are skills that I can add to my resume, making me a better-rounded IT professional,” she said.  “Employers need well-rounded IT professionals now more than ever; a person who is not only tech-savvy but can also adapt to change, learn things on the fly, as well as be able to work on a team and communicate with others in an efficient and friendly manner.  This competition helps my teammates and me hone those skills.”

Previous team members have been hired by companies including Chicago-based cyber security provider Trustwave, The Boeing Company, and State Farm Insurance to help secure their networks and clients, Imboden said.  Last summer ISAT earned designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education from the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, becoming among the elite programs nationwide recognized as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education.

The Security Dawgs’ success is evident.  In state competitions, the team has a first-place finish in 2006, second-place finishes in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011, and a third-place finish in 2009.  This year, only the top team in the state will advance to the Midwest Regional Competition, March 16-17, at Moraine Valley Community College, to face the top teams from Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.  The seventh annual National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition is April 20-22, in San Antonio, Texas.

The Security Dawgs continue to receive support for their efforts, including a $500 donation from Aisin Manufacturing Illinois, Imboden said.  Trustwave also donated more than $100,000 in software, hardware and support to improve the ISAT security program in fall 2011, he said.

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


  • Burbank:  Phillip J. McGeever, Jr., information systems technologies, senior.

  • Carbondale: Leonard A. Goodsell, information systems technologies, senior.

  • Carbondale:  Alexander R. Walters, information systems technologies, senior.

  • Danville:  Darcie L. Cohee, information systems technologies, senior.

  • Deerfield:  Benjamin P. Yablonka, information systems technologies, junior.

  • Johnston City:  John Zachary Moore, information systems technologies, senior.

  • Jonesboro:  Pratik B. Patel, manufacturing systems, graduate student.

  • Shelbyville:  Larry D. Elliott, information systems technologies, senior.