Temple University’s Institute for Business and Information Technology (IBIT) joined forces with Lockheed Martin in Washington D.C. in November to host the first annual National Cyber Analyst Challenge.
The competition, which welcomed 44 students and nine faculty advisors from nine universities, was designed to enhance students’ skills in combatting cyber-attacks and address a cyber talent crisis in the United States. The three-month, multi-phase competition aimed to inspire today’s technologically literate students to pursue careers in cyber security.
The result: It worked. Nearly 60 percent of the competition’s student-finalists completed online profiles with Lockheed Martin. On a 1-to-5, highest-to-lowest scale, the participants rated the competition highly on the metric of ‘learned a lot’ (1.33) and ‘value’ (1.15). One student remarked, “Hearing everyone tell us how valuable we are was a nice ego boost going into this field.”
“Cyber security analysts represent a critical skill need for most organizations,” said Chris Kearns, Lockheed Martin’s Vice President of Enterprise IT Solutions. “These students showed great promise through their hands-on teamwork to solve real world challenges and progress through the competition.”
According to SimplyHired.com, in mid-2015, there were 26,980 open cyber-security related positions. The need in these positions is less for operators and more for analysts. As threats multiply and diversify, intelligence analysis and identification is becoming critical, rather than secondary to the ability to configure or code secure servers. Yet, the job seekers in the talent pipeline find it difficult to integrate operational skills with strategic threat and cyber analysis. The goal of the National Cyber Analyst Challenge was to provide students with the opportunity to integrate specific operational skills with strategic threat analysis.
In the first phase of the competition, students pored over 75 gigabytes of data to find the cause of the simulated hack. Then the teams submitted 10-slide summary reports to explain their respective solutions for preventing future cyber-attacks. In the second phase, in which only nine teams competed, the students received training from industry experts. The competition culminated in a real-time practical challenge held at Lockheed Martin’s Global Vision Center in Crystal City, Va., in November.
A panel of industry experts, scoring finalists on technical proficiency, judgment, and communication, awarded the winning team $25,000 in prize money. Runners-up received awards of $7,500-$15,000 to support student, faculty, and curriculum development.
“It was gratifying to work with Lockheed Martin to create such a student- and faculty-centric opportunity,” said Dr. Munir Mandviwalla, IBIT’s Executive Director and the Chair of Management Information Systems at Temple’s Fox School of Business. “We hope to increase the national cyber talent pool across the nation’s top programs in Management Information Systems, Computer Science, and Engineering.”
– Lora Strum and Christopher A. Vito