UNK Cybersecurity Team wins regional, builds reputation as top training ground for hacking experts

Courtesy photo, Shutterstock
Courtesy photo, Shutterstock

By TODD GOTTULA
UNK Communications

KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney continues to build its reputation as one of the top training grounds for cyber security experts.

UNK’s student Cybersecurity Team took top honors at the March 23-24 North Central Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in Madison, South Dakota, placing first in the technical and business categories. UNK outperformed teams from 12 other colleges across the region.

cybersecurityThe “defensive hacking” event combined real-world hackers with student teams.

“Students acted as a company IT team trying to fight off the hackers while answering emails and phone calls from their fellow ‘employees,’” said Angela Hollman, assistant professor of industrial technology, and the team’s coach and adviser.

This year’s scenario was “General Hospital.” Students were instructed to keep hackers out of the patient records system, web portal and a variety of other devices such as heart monitors, which were checked every 20 minutes for functionality.

“While this was just a scenario, it does shine a light on a larger issue for health care organizations right now, which are experiencing down time due to hacking attempts such as ransomware and other scary vulnerabilities in which a hacker can remotely control functionality of actual heart monitors and pace makers,” said Hollman.

UNK Cyber Security Team members, listed by hometown, include:
Bayard – Jadon Smith
Cozad – Kolton Morse
Kearney – Kolten Harshbarger
Lincoln – Trenton Chramosta
Madison – Angel Ruiz, Angel Yuman
North Platte – Larry Stoner
Sidney – Chelsie MacKay

UNK competed as an exhibition team at regionals and will not compete in national competition this season. The team has a history of high finishes at regionals, winning its first-ever competition in 2015 and followed with a fifth-place finish in 2017.

Matthew Miller, assistant professor of computer science and information technology, also advises and coaches the Cyber Security Club.

UNK added a new Cybersecurity Operations Bachelor of Science Major this year. The program provides students with a background for protecting and defending networks and information systems from cyberattacks. It emphasizes technologies that enhance the national security posture of U.S. intelligence, military and law enforcement special operations, as well as energy, financial and health care corporations.

UNK’s cybersecurity operations major is based on the NSA’s National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations curriculum. Currently, there are only 15 undergraduate programs in the U.S. with that designation, and only a handful of Midwest colleges and universities offer a cybersecurity major.

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