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WSC Students Advance in National Cybersecurity Challenge

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019
Posted by WSC Marketing

WILLISTON, N.D. - Four Williston State College students have advanced to the next phase of Cyber FastTrack, a free online cybersecurity program for college students and graduates.

Hundreds of colleges and universities from 25 states are competing in Cyber FastTrack in an effort to close the United States' cybersecurity skills gap and encourage students to discover an aptitude for the field through game play.  

"Competition in any format is good for students first as it helps set a benchmark of where they are currently in understanding some of the foundations of cybersecurity," explained Ken Quamme, Professor of Information Technology at WSC. "It also helps student determine if cybersecurity in conjunction with Information Technology and Automation might be a passion of theirs."  

The national Cyber FastTrack program is divided into three stages.  

CyberStart Assess, open from April 5 to May 10, 2019, served as the initial tryout level. This phase included increasingly difficult challenges representing realistic threat scenarios that measured participant's existing knowledge, problem-solving skills, and potential for a career in cybersecurity.  

Sixty-nine college students from nine North Dakota institutions tested their cyber aptitude in this first phase. Ten of these students are women. The breakdown is listed below:  

Williston State College (WSC) | 12 students

Cankdeska Cikana Community College (CCCC) | 12 students

University of North Dakota (UND) | 10 students

Minot State University (MiSU) | 7 students

Bismarck State College (BSC) | 6 students

North Dakota State University (NDSU) | 6 students

North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) | 6 students

Valley City State University (VCSU) | 5 students

University of Mary (U of M) | 3 students  

"This competition is not a requirement for any of my courses," said Professor Quamme. "These students are competing because they are motivated and want to explore opportunities to find the right fit for them in their career and technical education career paths."  

As of May 10, ten participants demonstrated sufficient aptitude and the highest scores to be selected as quarterfinalists. Five of these participants, four students and an instructor, are from WSC.  

The names cannot be shared as a result of the SANS Institute's privacy policy but demographically, three males and two females represent WSC.  

These participants have moved on to the next phase of the program, CyberStart Game, which runs from May 20 to June 28, 2019.  

Focused on self-learning, the CyberStart Game phase features over 200 challenges that build on the skills and knowledge tested and learned during the Assess phase. As students progress to the highest levels of this phase, they will complete an Aptitude Assessment.  

The highest scoring students in CyberStart Game and the Aptitude Assessment will advance to the final phase - CyberStart Essentials - open from July 10 to September 16.  

"More than 5% of the North Dakota students in Cyber FastTrack solved the most difficult challenges, putting them in the Highly Adept category of participants," explained Alan Paller, Director of Research at the SANS Institute, the largest training organization for cybersecurity professionals in the world. "Even better news, over 32% went beyond what we would consider 'puzzle fun' and solved challenges that required the application of cybersecurity specific techniques and concepts."  

According to the SANS Institute, colleges atop the leaderboard following May 10 will be recognized as the top US colleges for cyber talent discover and great places for employers to seek cyber talent. 

With five quarterfinalists, WSC holds a national rank of 84; the highest rank of the nine North Dakota institutions to compete.

Four other North Dakota institutions have advanced: NDSU with two quarterfinalists and a rank of 167, and MiSU, NDSCS, and VCSU with one quarterfinalist each and a rank of 268 respectively.  

"This competition benefits WSC in many ways," stated Professor Quamme. "It helps set a benchmark in course offerings and skill sets that student might need to be successful in cybersecurity. It also allows the program to increase offerings and any new advancements in cybersecurity and what industry partners need in terms of student skill sets."  

"WSC will continue to look for these opportunities for the College, for business partners, and most importantly, for the students."  

For more information on this continuing story, please contact Ken Quamme, Professor of Information Technology at 701.774.4207 or ken.quamme@willistonstate.edu.  

For more information, please visit www.willistonstate.edu, call 1.888.863.9455, or stop by 1410 University Avenue, Williston, ND.