In Pursuit of Cyber Warriors

Cybersecurity competition has an increase in sponsorship and students

Western Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition logo

One of the world’s top social networking sites, an electric car manufacturer and a government defense contractor might seem to have different company objectives, but all share at least one thing in common: they want a skilled cybersecurity workforce.

In pursuit of that goal, Facebook Inc., Tesla Motors and Raytheon Co. have become first-time sponsors of Cal Poly Pomona’s Western Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, March 28-30 at Fairplex in Pomona. They will join returning sponsors such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Juniper Networks and Fire Eye Inc. 

As sponsors, the companies provide financial assistance, donate equipment and software and offer internships and jobs to competitors. However, the point of pride for event organizer Dan Manson is not necessarily connected with donations.

“Gaining more corporate partners tells me we’re doing something right with this competition,” says Manson who is a professor and chair of the Computer Information Systems Department in the College of Business Administration. “We’re offering students real world experiences that employers find valuable.”

In the competition, student teams are tasked with keeping operations running for a fictitious business while under constant threat from hackers. Fourteen teams from California and Arizona wanted to participate this year, an all-time high for the competition. With the increased interest, event organizers created a qualifying competition and only allowed the top eight teams to participate in the regional. The top finishers are: Cal Poly Pomona, UC Berkeley, Mt. San Antonio College, Cal State San Bernardino Devry University, San Bernardino Valley College, Westwood College and University of Advancing Technology. The winner of the regional round advances to the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition April 25-27 in San Antonio.

Cal Poly Pomona has earned a spot in the national round five times but every year the competition stiffens, Manson says.

“Cybersecurity is a passion for the students and they take the competition seriously,” Manson says. “Last year, we edged out UC Berkeley and I know every team has worked hard to improve their skills.”

The track record of those who have competed in the competition is impressive. The 2009 Cal Poly Pomona cyber defense team were all offered jobs with Boeing. Other cyber defense participants now work at Google, Accuvant, Tesla and Facebook.

Other sponsors this year include the Los Angeles chapter of ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association), LogicSecurity and Fishnet Security.