CCI undergraduate students to participate in cyber defense competition

Undergraduate students from Florida State University’s School of Information and the Department of Computer Science will join forces as members of the Cybersecurity Club to compete in the preliminary round of the Southeast Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (SECCDC) on March 8.

Florida State’s Cybersecurity Club is one of 17 universities that will participate in the Virtual Preliminary Qualification Competition for the Southeast Region.  The top eight will move on to an onsite regional competition hosted by Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.  Results from the preliminary round will be released March 9.

Dr. Shuyuan Ho, an Assistant Professor in the School of Information, is the faculty advisor for the club, which was created in 2013.

“I support the Cybersecurity Club in order to encourage students with more hands-on exercises for information security incident response and vulnerability assessment,” Ho said.

In the qualifying event, the eight-person team will be given a virtual network to defend from a “red team” comprised of professional system penetration testers.

“Essentially they are hackers who are going to try to get into our network any way possible,” Sarah Reecy, an Information Technology major and the club’s communications officer said. “Our job is to defend or mitigate intrusions for eight hours.”

Reecy and Cody Confer are Information Technology students on the eight-person team.

The team will be awarded points based upon factors such as how long the network is up, how well they deal with incidents and their response time.  They will use virtual machines and a network setup similar to a real business.  There will be a vulnerable commerce server with fake financial information and users on the network are not using best practices.

“It is supposed to simulate a business environment so we’re given professional business injects and there are meetings the captain and co-captain have to attend, like the regular responsibilities of a networking professional,” Reecy said.

Last year, FSU’s Cybersecurity Club placed third at the SECCDC in their first year of existence.

“I have confidence in our team,” Reecy said.  “We’re skilled … we just have to make sure our teamwork is on point.”

The hands-on practice the club members experience is a big selling point for potential employers.

“The unemployment rate for cybersecurity professionals is zero,” John Connor McLaughlin, a computer science major and the club’s president said. “We are in the hottest field right now. Having experience like SECCDC under your belt puts you leagues ahead of most students because this is such a new field that most universities aren’t prepared to teach it properly.  These competitions really set you apart from the crowd.”

“It gives you practical experience rather than just academic theory,” Ryan Kuhl, the club’s vice president said.

McLaughlin encourages students to think about cybersecurity as a career.

“It’s not as daunting as you might think,” McLaughlin said.  “It’s so accessible.  It’s the most in demand information technology position right now.  It’s easy to get into and very lucrative.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of Information Security Analysts is projected to grow 37 percent from 2012 to 2022.  The median salary for an Information Security Analyst in 2012 was $86,000 according to BLS.

For more information about the Cybersecurity Club, visit