Students in the Central Texas College (CTC) Computer Information Technology and Systems program recently put their cybersecurity skills to the test during the National Cyber League (NCL) competition. Individual competition was held last month and the team event was conducted in early November. Thirty-three CTC, Early College High School and Texas A&M University-Central Texas students were among the more than 6,000 students across the country that participated in the events.

Open to U.S. high school and college students, the NCL competition consists of a series of challenges allowing students to demonstrate their ability to identify hackers from forensic data, penetrate and audit vulnerable websites, recover from ransomware attacks and other skills tests. During the individual game, students may not receive assistance from anyone else but in the Team Game, students may receive assistance, but only from members of their team. Performance in both games is used to calculate their school’s cyber power ranking.

Joe Welch, CTC computer science professor, has coordinated CTC students’ participation in the competition the last four semesters. “Student players compete in the NCL to build their skills, leverage the NCL Scouting Reports for career and professional development and represent their school in the national cyber power rankings,” he said. “We have had solid participation in each of the last four semesters and 10 percent of all Texas participants in the competition are CTC students.”

Not only were CTC students competing for national power rankings, but also for local awards donated by the Subhani Foundation and the Patricia Marie Foundation. The highest scoring male and female participants from CTC were Timothy Coolbaugh and Genesis Seibel. Each received $200 from the foundations. Winners of the highest CTC team score also received a $200 award from the respective foundations. They were Seibel, Margaret Johnson, Yessalyn Rios and Monica Deal.

One of the reasons, students take advantage of the NCL competition is to further enhance the skills learned during the semester. “NCL can help make students a better cybersecurity professional by helping them understand their strengths and weakness,” said Welch. “The competition supplements in-class learning through applied technical assessments and builds confidence by providing the experience of applying the cybersecurity knowledge learned during class to solve real-world problems.”

Under its Computer Information Technology and Systems department, CTC recently replaced the Information Security curriculum with a new Cyberdefense – Information Assurance program. Students are afforded the option of either an associate of applied science degree or certificate of completion. The degree plan includes 60 credit hours in a variety of courses such as Network Defense and Countermeasures, Information Technology Security and Firewalls and Network Security. The certificate option is 23 credit hours and is designed for early entry into the career of cyber security.

This spring, the department will also open the Network Cloud Support and Cybersecurity curriculum which also offers associate degree or certificate programs with career options in cybersecurity, network server and cloud administrator, telecommunications technician, IT network analyst and network administrator.