Thursday, May 24, 2012

National Cyber League (NCL) Regular Season Conference Winners Advance to Playoffs This Weekend

The regular spring season, virtual alpha pilot of the National Cyber League (NCL) finished last week.  Four teams are advancing to virtual post-season playoffs, where they will compete head-to-head Saturday for an opportunity to advance to the first NCL national championship.  The national championship will take place in-person for two student teams at the Colloquium for Information Systems Security Education (CISSE) conference in Lake Buena Vista, Florida in June.

The NCL was founded in May 2011, by  CSPRI, CSSIA, CyberWatch, CyberWatch West and MPICT, with the goal of providing a training ground for undergraduate and graduate students to practice and hone their Cybersecurity skills though combined individual and team exercises.

Various cyber exercises/competitions exist.  What’s missing from the current cyber exercise landscape is a regular season that allows both individuals and student teams to practice cyber security in a safe, yet challenging environment.  Imagine being able to practice and compete year-round in various cyber exercises, in addition to the one-off “playoff” systems that currently exist.  Also, rules for current cyber-competitions often make it difficult for community colleges to participate.  The NCL welcomes community college participation.

To achieve national scale and impact, regular and post season competitions take place in hosted virtual stadiums, which are remotely accessible by student teams anywhere, so any college can compete.  (Most cyber-competition tournaments require expensive travel and custom lab setups.)  One virtual stadium serves each of the three NCL conferences.

Twenty-six teams participated in this initial alpha pilot season, representing community colleges, 4-year colleges and graduate programs.  Team members participated in a variety of regular season exercises, and they provided valuable feedback and advice to competition organizers, to develop and improve the NCL and help prepare it for more regular operations.  Each participant will receive a Certificate of Participation and Appreciation for his or her role in helping to create the NCL.

The 2012 NCL Spring Pilot Playoffs is a 1-week, 4 team tournament taking place May 26, 2012. The playoff is a head-to-head Capture the Flag (CTF) exercise, where teams play both offensive and defensive roles at the same time.

Congratulations to the following teams advancing to the 2012 NCL Spring Pilot Playoffs:

·         1st place overall: Midwestern Conference Champion:  DePaul University (IL)
·         2nd place overall: Western Conference Champion:  Mt. San Antonio College (CA)
·         3rd place overall: Eastern Conference Champion:  University of Maryland Baltimore County (MD)
·         Wild Card Team: Cal. State University - Northridge (CA)

It is noteworthy that the 2nd place overall and Western Conference Champion, Mt. San Antonio College is a California community college!

Congratulations and thank you to everyone who is participating in this alpha pilot project, to create something together than can make ICT education more fun and engaging, and help develop a competent security workforce for America!

Best wishes for a great post-season to all participating teams!

The NCL will continue its efforts to evolve and engage more and more students.  This is difficult, and it has not been without glitches, but it is very rewarding.   When we have completed this alpha season and digested its lessons, we will move on to planning a next, improved season.  In the words of one NCL alpha pilot participant:  “This week was lots of fun and I look forward to getting severely beaten again next week!”

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