This Friday through Sunday, students in St. Clair County Community College’s computer information systems networking degree program will compete against teams across the country as part of the Fall 2018 National Cyber League (NCL) competition.
Founded in 2011, the NCL provides an ongoing virtual training ground for individuals to develop and validate cybersecurity knowledge in a defensive and offensive puzzle-based, capture-the-flag style competition. Participants play the games simultaneously during a preseason, regular season and postseason, competing as individuals and on teams to test themselves against cybersecurity challenges they are likely to face in the workforce.
SC4’s NCL team is comprised of nine students from the college’s Network Security-Security+ Certification course. Led by adjunct instructor Bill Pilkey, team members took part in the regular season competition Nov. 1 through 2, when participants are only allowed to solve game challenges individually. During the postseason, SC4 students will compete in two groups due to changing requirements that limit teams to a maximum of five players.
“Real-world cybersecurity work is often done in teams, and the NCL postseason event provides a safe and challenging environment for individual players from the regular season to apply their knowledge and skills in a team setting,” says Pilkey. “The team event requires players to work together to solve real problems, with real deadlines, under time — and in some cases — technical and resource constraints.”
Nearly 1,000 teams representing schools across the country will compete in this year’s NCL postseason. Community colleges are in a unique position, Pilkey explains, as students generally compete for just one year, while students at four-year institutions stay with their teams much longer. “We end up with a new group each year, except for a couple previous competitors,” Pilkey says.
Beyond the thrill of competition and potential recognition for winners, NCL team members gain invaluable hands-on experience that complements their education and helps them stand out to potential employers. “Being in a competition like this is a great addition to students’ resumes. It adds to all parts of data security and hacking, exposing them to every aspect of cybersecurity,” says Pilkey.
The NCL postseason matchup will be held entirely online, running 24/7 Friday through Sunday. To make collaboration easier, SC4’s team members will be working together on campus Friday from 3 to 9:30 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. The NCL season officially concludes Dec. 16.