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Regional Cyber Defense Competition Bringing Internet ‘Warfare’ to UMaine

Cyber Defense

Cyber warfare will come to the University of Maine March 8–10 as dozens of computer science college students from the Northeast and industry professionals around the country square off in the 2013 regional Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

Computer science teams from 10 institutions, including UMaine, will gather around computers in groups of up to eight students in Neville Hall for the three-day event. The teams will attempt to defend against computer hacking tactics devised by cybersecurity professionals from around the country, some with corporate or military computing backgrounds, according to competition organizer George Markowsky, professor and associate director of the UMaine School of Computing and Information Science.

“We have some great hackers involved,” he says. Defending teams “definitely need to know what they’re doing. They’re scrimmaging against some serious people.”

Students compete for prestige and a chance to compete in the national competition in Texas. Some of the students get job offers from participating computing professionals or vendors attending the competitions, Markowsky says.

The annual event is designed to hone the skills of computing students trying to repair compromised computer operating systems, while simultaneously defending against hackers trying to plant malware, says Markowsky, who serves as director of the Northeast regional competition. “They function as if they’re the IT department at a corporation,” he says.

Teams qualifying for the Northeast regional cyber defense competition: Alfred State College, Champlain College, Northeastern University, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY IT, Syracuse University, UMaine, University of New Hampshire and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

The University of Maine hosted the regional competition in 2010, when UMaine placed second. Last year, UMaine placed third. Rochester Institute of Technology began the regional cyber defense competition in 2008.

Markowsky says cybersecurity skills are increasingly important as commerce and national security move into the digital age.

Banking and sales are shifting to the Internet, which makes theft of data or money safe and sometimes easy. “Why rob a bank? There are many options and you can steal a lot more money more safely than walking into a bank with a gun,” Markowsky says. In addition, “almost every branch of the military has a cyber command. Cyber warfare is a real thing. It is practiced daily.”

This year’s UMaine team members, mostly computer science majors, are practicing in consultation with Markowsky. Many of them intend to work in cybersecurity, he says.

Also during the competition there will be a short conference on cybersecurity, with presentations from participating teams and vendors, and information about internships or jobs in cybersecurity. To register for the conference, to observe the competition or to request disability accommodations, email Markowsky,

Friday, March 8 events are from 1:30–7 p.m., Saturday, March 9 events are from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. and Sunday, March 10 events are from 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

A website dedicated to the event has additional information.

Contacts: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745/207.949.4149; George Markowsky, 207.581.3940

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