NSights Blog

Cyber Club has makings of nationally competitive team

The Nevada Cyber Club had a memorable first semester

The Nevada Cyber Club wrapped up its first full semester with two notable accomplishments. First, the Cyber Clinic project and delivery of the third and final Cyber Clinic for the Fall semester at the Governor’s Mansion. Second, are the results of the Fall 2016 season of the National Cyber League competition and the emergence of a cyber competition team at the University. Both accomplishments represent the culmination of the hard work and dedication of the Cyber Club members.

A Cyber Clinic is a unique approach to raising cybersecurity awareness by adopting a “public health” metaphor and adapting medical industry constructs to the delivery of cybersecurity interventions. This RGJ article describes the metaphor and the model in more detail: “UNR Business: Got a cyber problem? See a cyber-medic”

Cyber Clinic #2, held in October at the University, served more than 75 students, faculty, and individuals, including the State CIO, Shannon Rahming, who was so impressed with the work of the students and innovative methodology that she extended an invitation to hold a Cyber Clinic for State employees at the Governor’s Mansion. The Cyber Clinic #3, at the Governor’s Mansion, served more than 175 State employees and their family and friends.

Governor Brian Sandoval provided the following encouragement in an e-mail distributed to all State Employees:

“Governor Brian Sandoval considers cybersecurity to be one of the most critical issues facing the state of Nevada. He encourages all state employees to check their cybersecurity ‘health’ and learn how to improve their ‘cyber-hygiene’ by attending the December 1, Cyber Clinic.”

This message coming from Governor Sandoval reinforces the importance of cybersecurity and highlights the unique “public health” approach of the cyber clinics by recognizing the need for good “cyber-hygiene.”

In the cyber clinic, trained “cyber-medics” provide individualized guidance on good cybersecurity practices to the participants. This provides a more engaging and effective interaction for the participants and allows the students to apply their cybersecurity knowledge in a meaningful way, generating an immersive, experiential learning opportunity. One individual who participated in the clinic felt compelled to provide the following feedback to the State CIO:

“Wanted to take a minute to tell you the UNR Cyber Club Clinic was excellent!  What an innovative, fun and effective way to further user’s knowledge of device, data, and identity security! It was fun, well organized, very professional guidance sheets, and each student that I talked to on the individual topics was EXTREMELY knowledgeable and well versed in communicating technical talk in easy to understand terms. Very impressed with them!  They did an exemplary job! Have a good day and thank you for coordinating this event with them!  Well Done!”

Almost immediately, there were requests for future Cyber Clinics. This reinforces the value of the service provided by these student cyber-medics, the effectiveness of the Cyber Clinic approach, and a genuine interest in collaborating with these talented and dedicated students.

The second accomplishment highlights the technical strengths of the cyber club members who competed in the National Cyber League Competition Fall 2016 season. At the beginning of the semester,  15 cyber club members signed up to participate in the individual competition (a series of scored, time-bounded cybersecurity challenges), most of whom had no prior experience with cyber competitions. The team organized practice sessions to share knowledge and prepare for the actual competition. The results exceeded all expectations.

The Fall 2016 NCL competition had more than 3,000 individual competitors registered and after a qualifying round, competitors were placed into brackets (gold, silver, and bronze). Our competitors placed well in the silver and bronze brackets, with one individual qualifying for the gold bracket.  Given this was our first cyber competition, the final results were especially impressive.

Five members of the team placed within the top 100 overall and one member placed in the top 1 percent of the field of competitors nationwide. In addition, a post-season team competition placed the University team in the top 10 percent (14th place) of 150 teams. One very reasonable conclusion is that we have the makings of a nationally competitive cyber team.

Between Cyber Clinics and Cyber Competitions, it has been a busy first full semester for the Nevada Cyber Club. The members have invested themselves in producing these remarkable results and are organizing to make next semester even better. The club is open to everyone and we have opportunities for individuals with technical and non-technical interests, and we are interested in building our interdisciplinary membership across all colleges, schools and disciplines.

Want to know more? All of the Cyber Clinic cybersecurity guidance, photos from the events (Cyber Clinics and Cyber Competitions), and information about the Nevada Cyber Club can be found on the club’s website: nevadacyberclub.com

Jim Elste photo