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Cyber Defense Club tops national competition

Members of Liberty's Cyber Defense Club.
Five members of Liberty University's Cyber Defense Club posted top scores in the National Cyber League Fall Season competition: (from left) Jeremiah Brown, Hannah Kirse, Brandon Kreisel, Matt Johnson, and Josh Eto.

Liberty University’s Cyber Defense Club had an outstanding showing at the National Cyber League Fall Season competition, claiming the top three spots in the Gold Bracket out of 945 participants. Students competed in the tournament Oct 19 and 26, from their respective campuses. The results were recently released.

Brandon Kreisel took first place overall, with Hannah Kirse winning second, Jeremiah Brown finishing third, and Joshua Eto placing 10th for Liberty. Matt Johnson posted a top 10-caliber score but was ineligible for competition because he did not participate in a previous ranking exercise. All five students are seniors.

The competition drew competitors from more than 100 institutions across the nation, including James Madison University, Radford University, North Carolina State University, San Diego State University, Texas A&M, and West Virginia University.

The weekend before the competition, the teams took part in a preliminary ranking exercise, in which several of Liberty’s competitors, including Kreisel, Kirse, Brown, and Eto, were placed in the Gold Bracket, the highest level for the NCL.

In the competition, students attempted to obtain various pieces of information by hacking specially configured computers.

Dr. Mark Shaneck, associate professor of computer science and the club’s mentor, said learning attack methods helps students to become better defenders.

“There is a severe need for cyber defense skills,” he said. “There are many job opportunities. With all the cyberattacks going on — data breaches, password breaches — it is a really hot field right now. Everyone has a responsibility to keep their own networks secure and safe both to protect the people using it and to protect their data.”

He said the Christian principles Liberty emphasizes helps students develop a strong ethic, which is very important in a field where it is critical to obtain permission documents before accessing specific data.

“The line between doing your job and breaking the law can be as fine as a piece of paper,” Shaneck said.

Shaneck added that the students’ performance was noticed by the competition sponsors, many of whom were scouting potential employees.

He said Liberty’s success in the competition shows the level of rigor and instruction of the School of Engineering & Computational Sciences.

“It is great to help bolster the reputation of the university in the technical fields.”

  • Liberty University School of Engineering & Computational Sciences (SECS) is on the rise. In the last year, the school has received ABET accreditation for its computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, and industrial & systems engineering programs, ensuring that 100 percent of its students will have graduated under an ABET-accredited program. ABET is the recognized accreditor of college and university programs in applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology.