By Paige Nevius
College students all over Illinois compete in various competitions every
weekend, traveling, practicing and honing their craft.
While everyone is aware of sports competitions, speech competitions and
band competitions, not all are familiar with computer-securing
Although this way of competing is rather unconventional, the
competitions have only been going on for three years, which could also
contribute to the reason it often goes unnoticed.
"Three years ago we got together in San Antonio to design a competition
that would allow students to compete in an information security type of
environment," Erich Spengler, director for Center for Systems Security
and Information Assurance, said.
The competitions include different blue teams or teams of students from
their respective universities competing against a team of professional
"hackers," called the red team, to make systems secure.
"A red team is a team that's designed to try and penetrate the network
and cause stresses for the students," Spengler said.
Spengler said during competitions, the teams have several different
areas of work.
"One is related to managing business networks, which means providing
services to customers," he said. "In [another area] the students are
required to keep the environment running," Spengler said.
During a three-day event from Feb. 23 through 25, this is exactly what a
few Illinois colleges, including ISU, did.
Students from Southern Illinois University, DePaul University, a second
SIU team, Moraine Valley and ISU gathered at SIU to compete for the
regional competition coming up the weekend of March 16 through 18.
"The competition went from Friday at noon until 9 p.m. and then 8 a.m.
until 10 at night on Saturday," Spengler said.
"The teams start with the same software and hardware," Belle Woodward,
SIU facility adviser for the competition, said.
When dealing with computer services, it is essential for each competing
team to have the exact same tools to keep their servers up.
"Every team walked into a different room and they received a system that
is running, but is not ideal, so they have to walk in and correct it,"
"They have services, and as long as your server stays up, you are
scored, and if your server goes down, you lose points," Woodward said.
Woodward, who is on the white team, or faculty adviser team, said the
team of students with the lowest number of hacks from the red team got
the highest score and therefore won, and would continue to regionals.
After the blue teams finished competing, yet another team was
"The gold team consists of those [who] score the competition," Woodward
The gold team named the team from DePaul to continue on to the regional
competition at Moraine Valley Community College. SIU came in second, ISU
in third, the second SIU team in fourth and Moraine Valley in fifth.
Although sitting in front of a computer for 23 hours in a weekend can be
taxing on anyone, Spengler said it is just part of the students'
"They work a lot, they have fun and they have a better perception of
what it's like to go out in the working world," he said.
Spengler and Woodward both agreed teamwork is the key element in winning
these competitions and in preparing the students for their careers.
"They take away from this competition the soft skills," Woodward said.
"They need to be able to work with one another [and] learn to drop their
egos, which is great."
Copyright 2007 The Daily Vidette
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