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Carnegie Mellon University Wins National Cyber Analyst Challenge

A team from Carnegie Mellon University was awarded $25,000 as the winner of the second National Cyber Analyst Challenge (NCAC), a cyber competition powered by Leidos and administered by Temple University’s Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT) to fill the ever-growing need for cyber analysts.

Developed to enhance the skills of the future workforce and inspire students to pursue careers in cyber security, the NCAC focuses on developing strategic skills involving analysis and threat identification.

According to SimplyHired.com, there is a cyber talent crisis in the United States, to the tune of nearly 27,000 open cyber-security related positions as of April 2015. The need in these positions is less and less for operators and more for analysts. As the threats multiply and diversify, intelligence analysis and identification is becoming critical rather than for example just the ability to configure or code secure servers. Yet, the talent pipeline finds it difficult to integrate operational skills with strategic threat and cyber analysis.

The goal of NCAC is to support the development of the best students pursuing cyber related degrees in the top cyber programs in the nation. The model is unique because student development is emphasized and students learn and compete on strategic skills involving cyber defense, risk analysis, threat identification, remediation, and communication. The model includes:

  • Training on and experience with the most relevant strategic cyber challenges
  • Mentorship by experts in industry
  • Resources to develop both students and faculty

"Our nation and our very way of life is under constant attack in cyberspace," said Chris Kearns, senior vice president of enterprise and cyber solutions at Leidos. "These talented students demonstrated amazing skill to connect the dots in this real-world scenario to defend our critical digital infrastructure."

A panel of industry experts scored the team from Carnegie Mellon University highest in technical proficiency, judgment and communication. The three-month, multi-phased competition started with each team analyzing a cyber case. In the second phase, the teams received training from industry experts. The competition culminated in a real-time practical challenge with advanced cyber training Oct. 27-28 at Leidos’ headquarters in Reston, Va.

Teams from 10 universities — Carnegie Mellon University, Howard University, Iowa State University, Penn State University, Syracuse University, Temple University, University of Maryland, University of South Florida, University of Texas at San Antonio and Villanova University – made it past Phase I in September. Each team received a significant award of $6,000-$12,000 to support student, faculty and curriculum development.

"It was gratifying to work with Leidos to create a student- and faculty-centric opportunity," said Dr. Munir Mandviwalla, executive director of Temple’s IBIT and chair of the Management Information Systems department at Temple’s Fox School of Business,who worked with IBIT Director Laurel Miller to envision the competition. "The challenge and conference brought together the nation’s top cyber educational programs in management information systems, computer science, and engineering. Interdisciplinary engagement is the most effective way to solve the nation’s cyber talent crisis because it can produce industry-relevant students and knowledge."

"The NCAC conference also provided a unique opportunities for meaningful dialogue between academic, industry, research, and education experts," Mandviwalla said, emphasizing that. "One outcome from the conference is the identification of a set of strategies to enhance cyber education and research through data centric collaboration between industry and academia."

For additional information, visit http://cyberanalystchallenge.org/

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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