Hackers Take Note

Eastern students win big in a national cybersecurity competition.

According to CyberSecruity Ventures, a prominent industry group, the computer-enabled misdeeds known as “cybercrimes” are already costing the world’s individuals, businesses and governments some $6 trillion — that’s trillion with a “t” — each and every year. By 2025, the group says, that number will reach $10.5 trillion.

Effectively fighting back against the torrent of attacks, experts say, will require new approaches and new thinking. Students at EWU are proving they are ready to do both.

As we’ve previously reported, faculty and students in Eastern’s Computer Science & Electrical Engineering department, led by Stu Steiner, an assistant professor of computer science, are at the forefront of training those who can blunt the threat. The program’s cyber defense initiative, for example, has created regional partnerships that not only assesses and secures critical infrastructure, but also provides real-time monitoring for regional municipalities. Among their many real-world interventions, Eagle students have blocked Russian hackers from infiltrating the city of Spokane Valley’s computer network and have worked with Washington’s Office of the Secretary of State to ensure election security.

Now there is even more assurance of Eastern’s cyber-sleuthing prowess. Earlier this spring, students in Steiner’s program, took first place in West Regional of the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity competition, a respected cyber-games contest that helps students build the skills they’ll need to move up in the intensely competitive world of cybersecurity analytics. They followed this triumph with an even bigger prize — a national title at the event’s championship in Tampa, Florida.

During the NCAE Cyber Games finale, the Eagle team endured an 8-hour marathon of defending a computer system from a cyber-attack in a real-world situation. The Eastern team notched 6,274 total points, edging out the University of Florida Gators by just seven points. 

Back in Cheney, CSTEM dean David Bowman neatly summed up the breadth of the students’ accomplishment: “The finals are a grueling challenge under any circumstance, but flying across the country and jumping straight into a high-pressure competition takes it to another level,
Bowman says. “I’m incredibly proud of our students and faculty who have shown that EWU really is a premiere destination for anyone who wishes to pursue cybersecurity.”