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AACC ranks highly in national cybersecurity competition

June 17, 2019

Twenty-three Anne Arundel Community College students reached the second round of the CyberStart competition, a series of online challenges designed to introduce students to the field of cybersecurity. More AACC students advanced than students from other participating Maryland schools. Nationally, AACC was ranked 16 of 1,291 participating colleges and universities.

“AACC’s students’ performance in CyberStart Assess was extraordinary, with more quarterfinalists than any other Maryland college, including both two- and four-year schools,” said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, which created CyberStart. “The results provide powerful evidence that America’s community colleges will be important producers of the cybersecurity talent the nation so desperately needs.”

Students in the competition navigate through online tutorials, quizzes and exams, and compete against each other in a trio of CyberStart challenge levels – first Assess, then Game, then Essentials. At the end of the competition, the top performers will be eligible for the Cyber Honors Academy Scholarship, which awards $2.5 million total.

The first level of challenges, CyberStart Assess, is open to anyone – AACC began the challenge with 71 students – but Game and Essentials require an invitation, something only the highest performers of the previous level receive. AACC students comprised nearly a quarter of the 109 Maryland students who demonstrated the aptitude in Assess needed to move on to Game.

“I was blown away by the talent and accomplishments of our AACC students in the challenges,” said Carrie Leary, a professor in AACC’s Cybersecurity, Networking and Digital Forensics program. “It was a clear statement of the power of the technical training they are receiving in our cyber, programming and related courses.”

AACC offers three associate degrees and nine credit certificates in its cybersecurity, networking and digital forensics program. Additionally, the college offers a range of noncredit courses to help students improve their cybersecurity skills.

“The way Professor Leary taught … enabled me to find the weaknesses and vulnerabilities exploited in the competition,” said Daniel Scannell, a cybersecurity student in Leary’s “Intrusion Detection and Penetration Testing” class. “Her method of problem-solving was critical to my success.”

CyberStart Game, which runs through June 28, focuses on self-learning and skills such as research techniques, identifying security flaws and in-depth code cracking.


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