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National Cyber League Team Competition Tests Information Security and Intelligence Students’ Skills

National Cyber League

A team of students from Ferris State University's Information Security and Intelligence program gathered to compete in the National Cyber League team event in early November.

A team of 19 Ferris State University Information Security and Intelligence students posted strong results against hundreds of schools and competitor groups during the fall team event of the National Cyber League.

The virtual competition allows the ISI students to demonstrate their prowess as participants from a National Security Agency Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

“There are often as many as 7,500 to 8,000 competitors in NCL events,” said Jerry Emerick, a professor of Information Security and Intelligence in the Ferris State College of Business. “Ferris is generally in the top five percent, nationally, with some of the best individual participants in the nation from time to time.”

A longtime advisor to ISI competitors, Emerick noted these students worked in teams of four and five, solving cybersecurity challenges in a “capture the flag”-style contest.

“This presents various challenges that test our team’s skills,” he said. “Generally, team members will work in groups of four or five physically together, virtually, or both while working through the NCL challenges. Student teams determine how to connect and organize their response with the best chance to succeed.”

Emerick said the Ferris State Information Security and Intelligence program’s stature and history, having been organized more than a decade ago, affords its NCL competitors some benefit in the league’s schedule of events.

“The team receives real-time information on its standing through a Cyber Skyline Live Score Report. There will also be a scouting report detailing our results in the team game,” Emerick said, noting Ferris completed the Spring 2023 NCL schedule and finished 22nd out of 451 teams nationally. In Fall 2022, the team placed 15th out of 470 competitors.

Chris Fidell

Chris Fidell, a senior in Ferris State University's Information Security and Intelligence program gathers with classmates who competed in the National Cyber League team event Nov. 3-5. Fidell hopes to continue his education in Ferris' ISI Master of Science program.

Senior Chris Fidell, from Brighton, wants to pursue a Master of Science in Information Security and Intelligence from Ferris State. He is currently in his first year of competition in NCL events and other competitions. Fidell said the recent team event was a great learning experience.

“I thought I would have some idea of the range of questions we would face. There were certainly some crushing elements in the competition,” Fidell said. “I had to go to ‘the gymnasium’ to get tools and resources on those exercises involving web exploitation because that is not my strong suit. I was pleased by my abilities to respond quickly and accurately in password cracking and cryptography.”

Fidell said this was an opportunity to apply what he had learned in the classroom while collaborating with his peers.

“These events show you what you do and do not know,” Fidell said. “I think it will be very valuable for my hopes to continue at Ferris in the graduate program and as a professional when previously unseen problems and scenarios arise.”