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Cybersecurity team places second nationally

Security Daemons
(Image courtesy of Ryan Haley)

As the Biden administration prepares to prioritize cybersecurity funding amid a massive cyber threat to the energy sector, DePaul’s Security Daemons are making headlines of their own.  Earlier this quarter, the cybersecurity team took second place​ in the 2021 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition​, scoring a historic finish for the team and solidifying their position among the nation’s best cybersecurity competitors. This year’s national ranking is the highest in Security Daemons’ history.

Nearly 170 teams from across the country compete in the CCDC annually. The national event, now in its 16th year, brings together the winners of ten regional competitions. The Security Daemons won the Midwest regional in March. DePaul has competed in the CCDC each year since its inception. The team has won the regional competition and gone on to place in the top five nationally in five of the last seven years.​

DePaul’s 2021 CCDC roster, comprised of both undergraduate and graduate College of Computing and Digital Media students, includes team captain Adam Slowik, Anna Andler, Andrew Auw, Aakash Patel, Eddie Ramirez, Gavin Stec and Felipe Tapia Sasot. They are coached by faculty members Ryan Haley, Jean-Philippe Labruyère and Filipo Sharevski. Dorian Gattepaille, the student manager of CDM’s Networking and Security Lab, also provided crucial support.

At the nationals, student teams were tasked with protecting their fictional renewable energy plant from cyberattacks. It was the most system-heavy event to date, with 30 servers to manage, including 20 public-facing services across three sites. Some of the best hackers from the country attempted to breach each team’s network by creating and deploying custom exploits, malware, and rootkits.

"As a participant of CCDC events for more than 10 years, this is truly one of the hardest working and talented groups of students this competition has ever seen,” says Haley, a CDM alumnus and current adjunct faculty member.

Slowik, who is president of the Security Daemons, was grateful to Haley's guidance.

"We appreciate the unmeasurable amount of time and energy he put into developing a strong and supportive foundation for us to excel," Slowik says. “Having the opportunity to lead and grow alongside a team of motivated individuals was an invaluable end to my DePaul career. I have had the pleasure of watching our group grow over the past nine month -- it's always an amazing experience to get out of the classroom and see the results of our hard work and persistent momentum. CCDC is the best learning experience I have had in my four years here and has facilitated numerous opportunities to expand and grow both my technical and operational expertise.”

This CCDC finish is the latest of several competitions proving CDM’s cybersecurity students are a force to be reckoned with. Last year, Security Daemons members were on the winning US Cyber Challenge team, and placed fourth nationally in the U.S. Department of Energy’s CyberForce Competition.

“Competing nationally requires students to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to the challenge, impeccable communication and hundreds of hours of practice, drills and preparation,” Labruyère says. “Through our curriculum, students receive a holistic approach to cybersecurity combined with problem-solving skills that has been essential to both the Security Daemons’ excellence and our students’ continued success.”