SIU’s student cybersecurity team makes impressive run

Southern Illinois University



SIU Security Dawg team group photo

Members of SIU’s Security Dawgs, from bottom left, are Mike Whisenhunt, Tony Barnes, Andrew Barnes, Alex Hayes, Dustin Myers, Isaac Brown, Tyson Nicklin, Matthew Pawlowski, Matthew Nicklin and Trent Grider. (Photo provided)

SIU’s student cybersecurity team makes impressive run

By Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s student cybersecurity team enjoyed a spectacular run during 2023 competitions.

The SIU Security Dawgs took first place at a multistate event March 4, besting 17 other teams during a wildcard round at the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. The win took the eight-member team all the way to the Regional CCDC tournament March 17-18 at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills.

“The team’s hard work paid off,” said Matthew Nicklin, assistant lecturer in SIU’s School of Computing and the team’s adviser. “Their success was a reflection of the excellent education they receive at SIU Carbondale.”

The team stacked up strong showings in previous competitions to make it to the regionals, including placing third out of 18 teams from Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin at the Feb. 18 CCDC. It also placed second in the Illinois state portion of the contest.

The SIU students participated in intense seven-hour competitions, which tested the team’s ability to secure a pre-compromised computer network system while also preventing a group of professional penetration testers from causing further damage. It also required participants to perform various administrative tasks, including configuring system services and installing updates.

During the regional competition, the Security Dawgs faced teams from two- and four-year colleges and universities, building and defending mock production business infrastructures from professional “hackers” attempting to take each team’s production systems offline and breach the security. At the same time, judges deployed network enhancements and upgrade challenges to the teams, evaluating each team’s performance along the way.

The Security Dawgs faced teams from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin, helping prepare the members for the challenges of the real cybersecurity world.