Champlain Students Score Third Place Against Leading Industry Hackers

Champlain College hosts top students and industry professionals at the 2019 Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

Professional hackers, digital defense experts, tech executives, and cybersecurity students from across the region convened at Champlain College from March 15–17 for the Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NECCDC). In this high-stakes competition, top tech students from Northeast colleges worked in teams to fend off attacks from ethical hackers who volunteered their time and expertise to test the skills of these future digital defense experts.

In an intense three days of competition, Champlain College scored third place, and was the only team without graduate students to land in the top five. The team was a mix of Computer Networking & Cybersecurity and Computer & Digital Forensics majors, including: Abigail Barr ’19, Young Chen ’21, co-captain Travis Kennedy ’19, Brandon Ledyard ’19, Ian Palleiko ’20, co-captain Emily Platz ’20, inject lead Mackenzie Marsocci ’19, Jonah Sheldon ’20, Fritz Stadtlander ’20, Jacob White ’20, and alternate Lucas Simons ‘20.

Meet the Champlain College NECCDC team!

“NECCDC brings together some of the most influential minds in the tech industry—folks from Facebook, Raytheon, Department of Defense, Harvard, RIT, and more,” said Scott Stevens, Dean of Champlain’s Division of Information Technology & Sciences (ITS). “Students experience, firsthand, what it feels like to be a network administrator under siege from some of the most skilled hackers in the country.” 

Facebook was one of around 25 tech companies recruiting students at NECCDC 2019 at Champlain College.

For tech companies and cybersecurity experts, the event is a pipeline to identify and recruit top talent in the field. On Saturday, around 25 companies gathered for a recruiting event in the Champlain Room for an evening of networking with the students.

“Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, and the top students are in high demand, with nearly 100% job placement in well-paid positions upon graduation,” Stevens says.

Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, and the top students are in high demand, with nearly 100% job placement in well-paid positions upon graduation.

Scott Stevens, Dean of ITS
The NECCDC recruiting event allowed companies to network with students about potential job opportunities in the future.

The day before, IT and cybersecurity professionals from around the region attended the NECCDC symposium. Champlain’s own ITS Assistant Professor Ali Hadi gave a great talk, as did Champlain students. Ian Palleiko ‘20 // Computer Networking & Cybersecurity major and full-time reverse engineer for White Ops, spoke about taking down the 3VE Botnet, one of the largest and most sophisticated digital ad fraud operations the internet has seen. Two Security Operations Center Analysts at the Senator Leahy Center for Digital Investigation—Zach Burnham ‘19 // Computer & Digital Forensics, and Jonathan Castro ‘19 // Computer & Digital Forensics—gave a talk titled, “Threat Hunting with ELK.”

Ian Palleiko ‘20 // Computer Networking & Cybersecurity spoke about taking down the 3VE Botnet.

Over the course of three days, students played the role of network administrator at a hypothetical company, tasked with overseeing and maintaining all information systems. They quickly familiarized themselves with their network and set up security protocols, before the hackers unleash digital havoc on their systems.

“This year’s theme was ‘Resilience and Recovery,’” said Devin Paden, Champlain’s Computer Networking & Cybersecurity Co-Program Director. “Teams are required to maintain, extend, and fortify enterprise-wide systems while they’re subject to attack, time-sensitive tasks, and imminent disaster.”

The “Red Team” of ethical hackers—all professionals and academics in the cybersecurity industry—volunteered their time to simulate real-world attacks against the student teams. Over the course of three days, the students fend off the types of attacks they might see during a 10-year span in the industry.

The following schools competed in NECCDC 2019: Champlain College, SUNY Albany, Harvard University, Syracuse University, Northeastern University, University of Maine, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of New Hampshire, St. John’s University, and Westchester Community College.

A big shoutout goes to Paden, ITS Assistant Professor Joe Eastman, ITS Academic Operations Manager Susannah Eriksson, Stevens, and ITS Assistant Professor and Program Director Adam Goldstein who put in endless amounts of hard work to make NECCDC at Champlain College a success. Champlain team alternates Lily Jackson, Ella Rackers, Alex Marvi, Nurit Elber, and John Long also helped tremendously in ensuring the event ran smoothly.

Thank you also to Kevin Woodilla ‘19 and Christian Perez-Waldo ‘19, who completed their capstones based on setting up NECCDC. They spent months planning and working on the competition infrastructure. Alumnus and Adjunct Faculty member Taylor Harris ‘18 also volunteered countless hours to the cause.

It was an intense three days, but the Champlain students also had a lot of fun!

Students look forward to another high-stakes competition in 2020.

“It’s fast-paced, exciting, and totally unpredictable,” said Stevens. “These students will go on to lead some of the top tech organizations in the nation. It’s great fun to bring these incredible minds together, and see what they can do.”

Scott Stevens welcomes NECCDC attendees during the Friday Symposium.
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