By Audrey Patterson | Reporter
Baylor students will compete in the National Cyber League (NCL), an online cybersecurity competition between U.S. high school and college students, April 8-10 for the individual game and April 22-24 for the team game.
According to the NCL’s website, its mission is to “prepare the next generation of cybersecurity professionals by providing high school and college students and their coaches an online, safe platform of real-world cybersecurity challenges.”
Shaun Hutton, clinical associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and faculty adviser for NCL, said the competition has nine challenge areas in cybersecurity, ranging from open-source intelligence gathering to cracking passwords and analyzing network traffic.
“This [competition] gives you the opportunity to try to use both offensive and defensive skills,” Hutton said. “Now, they’re both for positive purposes. You’re not trying to hack people maliciously; you’re trying to use hacker skills to find flaws, so you can then fix them in the future.”
Arlington, Va., senior Alejandro Navarro said he participated last semester for the first time and ranked in the top 100 for both the individual and team competitions. He said he enjoys how the competition allows him to learn many technical and practical skills for his future career.
“I feel like it really opened my mind to think differently with problem-solving in cybersecurity,” Navarro said. “It really helped me fire more of my passion for cybersecurity and learn more about how things work in the background.”
Navarro said some past test topics that he enjoyed were reverse engineering, web exploitation and cryptology.
“Some tools that they’ll have to learn is how to crack passwords,” Hutton said. “They’ll learn the basics of cryptography and encryption. They will learn how to process log files … They have to look at analyzing network traffic and try to exploit websites. They have to learn how to scan systems, so we can look at what services are running on a given computer.”
Navarro said that the competition boosts his resume and that he uses it as an anecdote when interviewing with companies of interest.
“The [competition] helps them in a number of ways,” Hutton said. “A bunch of these skills are used in the real world. One of the things about NCL is they have a job board, so companies try to recruit people participating in this. For the individual competition, they provide you with a scouting report, which basically grades you in each of the nine challenge areas. So you can see how accurate you were and how you did relative to everyone else. And you could provide that to employers or just use it as a personal grading report to see, ‘What do I need to improve for next semester?’”
Hutton said anyone can participate in the competition if they are interested in technology and willing to learn. He said NCL provides practice tests and other challenges that they go through at weekly meetings.
If students want to prepare for future competitions in the weekly meetings described above, they can email Shaun Hutton at email@example.com.