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Lake Superior College takes third in cyber defense competition

The Duluth college will compete in the Midwest Wildcard on Saturday, March 5, as a chance to move onto regionals.

Lake Superior College cyber security team
The Lake Superior College cyber security team posing together. The team placed third in the Minnesota State Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.
Contributed / Jeremy Simon

DULUTH — Lake Superior College's cyber security team took third at the virtual Minnesota State Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition on Feb. 5.

This places the team in the Midwest Wildcard qualifier on Saturday, also virtual, where they compete for the chance to advance to the regional competition March 18-19.

Nine Minnesota State System institutions were challenged to prevent a staged cyber attack in the annual, daylong event Feb. 5. This is the third year LSC has placed third.

Competitors protected an existing commercial network in a controlled virtual environment to mimic a small company with at least 50 users and seven to 10 servers, with basic internet services like a web server, mail server and e-commerce site. A volunteer "red team" took a hacker role and attacked all of the internet-based services for competitors to detect.

"This was my first competition of this style," Ryan Kleffman, a first-year student in LSC's cyber security diploma program, said. "I've had a previous competition when you are tasked with setting up a computer, but never while being attacked. It was incredibly unique."

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Kleffman maintained the email server by creating firewalls and detecting potential hackers. Kleffman attended LSC's GenCyber summer camps in middle school, which led to an interest in cyber security and defense.

A fellow teammate in network administration and cyber security, Jeremy Simon, said a professor brought up the competition a week before, causing an onslaught of rigorous preparation efforts.

"I had very little prep time to get ready for it. I learned everything I needed to in that week to prepare," Simon said. "I made a game plan and I wrote it all out. It was pretty stressful, but it paid off."

Intense preparation efforts carried LSC's cyber security team to a top spot, Simon said.

"There was a lot of research involved," Kleffman said. "I was drowning in info about email servers, encryption and SQL (a type of coding). The week leading up to the competition was a stress fest, but it was worth it."

Metropolitan State University took first; Minneapolis College took second; Lake Superior College took third; and Pine Technical and Community College took fourth.

Lake Superior College is the only two-year community and technical college in Minnesota to earn a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense designation by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

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