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Security Daemons earn their place in elite national competition

DePaul's Security Daemons team pose for a photo
The Security Daemons traveled to San Antonio for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. Pictured from left are Galileo Pierson, Victor Atanasov, Amanda Hunt, Felipe Tapia Sasot, Dakota Teafatiller, Gerald Cabel, Zack Musgrave, Anna Andler and co-coach Filipo Sharevski. (Photo courtesy of Anna Andler)

DePaul University returned this spring to the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, going against other regional champions from across the country, to cap a season full of successes.

This February, the Security Daemons team of undergraduate cybersecurity students won the Illinois championship for the eighth time. A month later, the squad claimed the Midwest regional against teams from nine states to punch its ticket for nationals, held this year in San Antonio. Only 10 schools nationally qualified for the meet.

Competitions can last up to 12 hours as teams tackle simulated real-world scenarios for mock clients. These intensive contests give Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media students a chance to develop skills for their future professions.

The 2022 roster included Captain Anna Andler, Victor Atanasov, Gerald Cabel, Amanda Hunt, Zack Musgrave, Galileo Pierson, Felipe Tapia Sasot and Dakota Teafatiller. Team members are interested in all aspects of security, including information assurance, security engineering, network security and more.

Andler, a junior cybersecurity student, says, "We practice hard, spending weeknights and even weekends training and honing our skills. Having fun during long, grueling practices and competitions drives our team to come back the next day and do it again."

Team coaches and CDM faculty members Ryan Haley, Jean-Philippe Labruyère and Filipo Sharevski credit the students' dedication, as well as the rigor of DePaul's cybersecurity program, for the team's success.

"What happens in the competitions reflects the hands-on experience available to all students in our cybersecurity classes," Labruyère says. "The strength of the team's skills is drawn from the curriculum, which teaches an adversarial mindset within defensive applications."

While DePaul did not place in its third trip to nationals, the experience gained from competing at such a high level is good preparation for what awaits after graduation, Security Daemon members say.

"In the real world, there is no reset button if something goes wrong. These competitions allow us to make mistakes, take risks and learn in preparation for our eventual careers in the field," Andler says.

Team members are eager to continue their success in the coming year. Andler says she intends on returning for the 2022-23 season to help maintain the team's achievement and to welcome newcomers.

Beyond the Cyber Defense Competition, cybersecurity is a growing field for employment, with 15,000 job openings in Illinois alone.

Sharevski recently earned a $949,000 grant from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity to bring awareness of these career opportunities into high school classrooms. He hopes that introducing IT principles at a younger age will provide greater competence and interest in the field, which could eventually be pursued as a profession.

Konner Gross is a student intern in University Marketing and Communications.