Seven Illinois State University information technology students, accompanied by two university faculty members, headed to Palos Hills February 15 to compete in the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

The Illinois State team was assigned a topology of a mock business and separated from the eight other teams. The team’s goal was to protect its pseudo network from being penetrated by opposing team hackers who were attempting to infiltrate their security. While preventing attacks the students had to complete other tasks such as installing applications and running vulnerability scans. This competition imitated real-world scenarios in which the team’s judgment and skills were tested.

After eight hours of competition, Illinois State University received third place in the competition. The team was able to keep its network intact after denying its “CEO’s” request to install a service that would have allowed hackers a backdoor into the network.

According to Joseph Spero, a senior information systems and criminal justice sciences major, the fake scenario represents a common problem in real businesses. “This corresponds to a lot of requests that IT departments receive in real corporations, with executives not having a full understanding of information security,” Spero said.

Spero added that the trophy was just a bonus for the team. “The absolute best part of this competition was having fun with friends and doing what we love to do.” This is the first time in eight years Illinois State has been able to take home a third-place trophy from the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.