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University of Virginia Nabs Top Honors in Collegiate Cyber Contest

The University of Virginia (UVA) took home top honors in this year’s National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC), which took place April 13–15.

Ten cyber-defense teams faced off in Orlando, competing as white-hat hackers to protect a fictional biotech company called Volitech, which specializes in vaccine research, materials research, pharmaceuticals, and biomechanical organ development. The students were challenged to operate and manage a network infrastructure similar to that of networks found in the commercial sector and were scored based on their ability to minimize system infiltration, keep critical services in operation and prevent exfiltration of sensitive data.

The UVA team was formed just three months ago and had never competed in a large-scale cyber competition before. Half of the team (four members) are freshmen. The win is particularly notable given that more than 230 colleges and universities competed to take 10 finalist positions in the national round.

UVA team captain Mariah Kenny, the only female on the team, led them to victory. Kenny stands out in a field dominated by men. In fact, women currently comprise just 11% of the global cybersecurity workforce.

NCCDC gives students an opportunity to develop and apply real cybersecurity skills, which is a critical need. In the US alone, there are 750,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions. By 2020, more than 2 million cybersecurity jobs will be needed worldwide.

"NCCDC's systematic, professional approach to this competition and the use of real-world business scenarios will contribute to filling the projected cyber-job vacancies," said John DeSimone, vice president of Cybersecurity and Special Missions at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services. "We want to congratulate University of Virginia and encourage them to continue their pursuit of cybersecurity excellence through internships and throughout their careers post-graduation."

Raytheon will bring the winning team to Washington, D.C., this summer to tour some of the nation's top research and national cybersecurity sites.

"The NCCDC program brings academia, government and industry together in a unique way," said Dwayne Williams, director of the NCCDC. "Everyone recognizes we need to find and train more cyber professionals and these competitions are critical in helping meet that need."

In addition to University of Virginia's top finish, University of Central Florida placed second and Dakota State University placed third.

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