Three Lewis University students participated in the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge, sponsored by the Atlantic Council. The Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge is a national competition that tests students’ ability to craft high-level policy recommendations for dealing with a major cyber threat. This is Lewis’ first time participating in the competition. Only fifteen schools from around the country qualified to participate.
The competition consisted of two parts. In the first part, the students wrote a 2,500-word policy brief that recommended to the President a strategy for dealing with a hypothetical but plausible threat to a vital component of the nation’s critical infrastructure. Then, on June 15, the students presented their recommendations to a panel of judges at American University in Washington, D.C. On that day, the students presented the components of their plan, identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of their various recommendations. They were then presented with new information related to the incident and were challenged to revise their recommendations in light of how the situation had evolved. They presented their revised plan in the afternoon. Their overall performance for the competition was evaluated in terms of the quality of their written policy brief and two oral presentations.
The students who participated were Brandon Greene of Joliet, Joseph Kunnengode of Hickory Hills, and Brian Wilhelm of New Lenox. Brandon graduated from Lewis with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science degree in 2011 and a Master of Science in Information Security degree in May 2013. Brian graduated from Lewis with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science in December 2012. Both Joe and Brian are currently pursuing the Master of Science in Information Security (MSIS) degree from Lewis and are on track to graduate within a year. The students were advised by Dr. Ray Klump, Professor and Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and Director of the Master of Science in Information Security program, and Matt Kwiatkowski, Deputy Information Security Officer at Argonne National Laboratory and an instructor for several courses in the MSIS program.
The Lewis team competed against teams from MIT, Harvard, Columbia, William and Mary, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, and the Air Force, as well as several other universities from around the country.
The team’s travels were generously funded by Deltak, an online education firm who helps develop, market, and deliver the MSIS program to students across the country.
One of the key lessons of the competition is that cyber security is an inherently interdisciplinary concern. The threats are multifaceted, and the stakes are high. Responding to them requires a team of people with diverse skills. Computer Scientists work alongside policy makers, legal experts, and political strategists to identify, measure, and respond to risks and threats. A comprehensive security posture, particularly as it relates to national security, requires a team of talented people in each of these areas. The nature of this competition clearly conveyed that point.
Lewis University has been recognized by the NSA and DHS as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. It graduate Information Security program is complemented by a high-quality undergraduate program in Computer Science, which includes a Concentration in Cyber Security Operations. A fast-track program enables Computer Science majors to earn their Masters in Information Security and Bachelors in Computer Science in just five years.
“This was a wonderful exercise for our students to participate in,” said Dr. Klump. It gave them an opportunity to use what they have learned in their coursework and to work as a team to solve a very complex information security challenge. The students did amazing work, and the judges were impressed.”