A team of Villanova University College of Engineering students took gold in Phase I of the 2016 National Cyber Analyst Challenge (NCAC). The gold award, the highest level in the challenge, was accompanied by $12,000 to participate in the Challenge finals in Washington, D.C. in October.
Advised by Visiting Professor James Solderitsch, team members Vincent Walsh ’17 EE, William Yoquinto ’17 BioChemistry, Chad Yantorno, a graduate student in Cybersecurity, and Akash Gavlani, a graduate student in Computer Engineering, competed against 20 teams to analyze a computer that had been accessed by an attacker. The challenge began with training by Lockheed Martin experts who shared the tools and apps they use for cybersecurity analytics. Following that instruction, each team was given a challenge data set and told to find out as much they could about the problem computer using whatever tools or platforms would be most helpful. After spending two weeks in August on data analysis, teams submitted a Powerpoint deck outlining what was learned. Entries then were reviewed by a panel of industry experts who scored them on presentation, incident and content analysis, and technical accuracy and skills.
“To be honest, I had little expectation of our team being successful,” admits Solderitsch. “Given that it was our first year in the challenge, I assumed returning teams would have the advantage. Our win in Phase I is very exciting and we look forward to the finals.”
As recipients of the gold award, Villanova’s team will be paired with a Lockheed Martin industry mentor. Phase II will provide finalists with online training for remedying and mitigating threats, and Phase III will consist of a real-time practical challenge. The NCAC winning team will be awarded $25,000.