Cyber League Championship Will Help Train Future ‘Cyber-warriors’

The Orlando Magic may be out of the NBA playoffs, but Orlando’s hosting a different kind of championship on Sunday, June 10.

The National Cyber League Championship will pit two teams of college students against each other – as they try to penetrate each other’s computer networks while simultaneously defending their own computers from attack.

This is the inaugural season for the National Cyber League, but the championship promises a David-and-Goliath storyline, as the veterans from well-known DePaul University of Illinois take on the upstarts from Mt. San Antonio College, a community college in Walnut, Calif.

The contest, which will be held at the Royal Plaza Hotel in Lake Buena Vista, kicks off at 9 a.m. and concludes at 5 p.m.  It is not open to the public.

The U.S. is facing a critical shortage of qualified workers who can help prevent cyber attacks. Computer industry experts say that the nation will need 60,000 cyber-security workers in the next five years.

To develop the next generation of cyber-security professionals, U.S. computer security experts are developing live-action competitions like the National Cyber League.  By throwing students into real-time scenarios, league organizers hope that students will develop the skills needed to prevent hackers or terrorists from breaking into computer networks that could control everything from the nation’s transportation systems to power grids or water supply.

“From my experience, this is something that students don’t get much exposure to in class and is an extremely valuable tool in the real world”, said Ryan Haley, captain of the DePaul student team.

The National Cyber League Championship is being held in Orlando as part of the Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education (CISSE), an annual conference that focuses on educating students about careers in computer and cyber security. The Colloquium is being held in Orlando June 11-13. Valencia College is co-hosting the colloquium.

The National Cyber League competition was created by college professors who have been running cyber exercises for years, but saw the need for a regular season competition, during which both players and teams could hone their cyber-security skills.

Similar attacks are already taking place around the world. Last week, computer systems throughout the Middle East were attacked by the Flame virus, which experts believe was designed as a cyber-spy virus.  As the number of computer viruses and cyber attacks increase, U.S. experts say there’s a growing need for college graduates who know how to defend computer networks from attack.

“We need people with hard-core, hands-on skills and people who can adapt quickly,” said Dr. Dan Manson of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, one of the organizers of the National Cyber League. “The attackers get better and better each year. The cyber-warriors need to get better and better too.”

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