The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 30, 2019 1:00 am

Competition hones Cyber Warriors' skills

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

For students on Indiana Tech's cyber defense team, landing a job after graduation isn't much of a problem.

“The jobs find them, typically,” faculty adviser Matt Hansen said, adding companies use competitions as recruitment opportunities.

It's not surprising that Cyber Warriors team members – whose majors include network engineering, computer engineering, software engineering, computer science and cybersecurity – would be sought after.

The academic team has amassed a collection of trophies in its 13 years. It nabbed its ninth state title this year and ended its season in second place at the Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. Ten schools from states including Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio competed.

Competitions require the team to navigate scenarios information technology departments might encounter, such as having to battle computer viruses, security holes and other cyber threats while maintaining regular business services, like email and e-commerce. Challenges also have expanded to include offensive tasks directing teams to attack and compromise systems, Hansen said.

The experience is “extremely stressful” but addicting, said Hansen, an alumnus of a cyber defense team. Feeling depleted and mentally dead is common immediately after a competition – but so is the desire to do it again 10 minutes later, he said.

Most students join the Cyber Warriors by passing a four-week tryout that values perseverance due to the dedication the team requires, Hansen said.

“We practice as much, if not more than, traditional sports teams,” Hansen said.

He noted the team prepares year-round and ramps up the hours before a competition.

Even so, he said, “It feels like you're never ready.”

Tony Burkhart, this past season's team captain, said he didn't know what he was getting into when, as a freshman, he accepted Hansen's invitation to fill a vacancy based on his technical writing ability. He's glad he did.

“Something that pushed me to join the team was the fact that alum from the team had always graduated with a job in their field already lined up,” Burkhart said through email. “I was excited to learn more outside of the classroom, and to have the great opportunities to network with others in the field.”

Burkhart graduated this spring with a Bachelor of Science in network engineering and minors in cybersecurity and business administration. He described himself as lucky to continue the trend of having secured a job before graduation.

“I attribute much of that to having been on the team and getting to go to competitions,” he said.

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