The winners of the Cyber Security Challenge hold their trophy with Mayor Jim Watson.

Carleton-Algonquin Students Win Cyber Security Challenge

By Elizabeth Howell

Photo by Chris Roussakis

A team of students representing Algonquin College who are enrolled in the Bachelor of Information Technology – Network Technology (BIT-NET) program, a collaboration with Carleton University, won the Cyber Security Challenge (CySCOTT) on Saturday, Nov. 19.

The challenge, organized by CGI’s Tom Levasseur, tested computer science skills by having people hack into a fake company’s website and extract information. As budding security professionals, students were then tasked with writing a report explaining what they found.

The event attracted 60 people, including 32 students who laboured over computers in a Carleton classroom.

The winning team – comprised of Georges Ankenmann, Jason Reifstenzel, Joseph Mitchell and John Morrison – received the Ottawa Mayor’s Cyber Challenge Cup from Mayor Jim Watson.

“Cyber security is one of the growth areas for Ottawa,” said Watson, adding that CySCOTT is a prime example of how to promote the field among students.

“It’s a great way for people to get skills and internship opportunities at the same time.”

Associate Prof. Ashraf Matrawy from Carleton’s School of Information Technology, agrees with the mayor: “The BIT-NET students get an excellent mix of theoretical background and hands-on skills through our program. Competitions such as this one are a good opportunity for the BIT-NET students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. It is not a surprise to see them do very well in such competitions with the education they get in our program.”

Cyber Security Challenge Winners Interviewed for Paid Internships

After the competition, the top students interviewed for paid internships at sponsors for the event, including the Bank of Canada, Bell Canada, CGI, Phirelight, SERENE-RISC and Communications Security Establishment Canada.

One of Carleton’s two teams placed third in the competition.

“I think the team worked very well,” said Indiana Moreau, a first-year student. “It’s too bad we didn’t get a couple of bonus points, but I’m really happy.

“In the classroom you might learn the theory of security. But once you get into it in the competition, that’s when you really understand how to defend against threats. That’s the end goal here.”

“Both Carleton teams put a focus on working collaboratively,” added David Manouchehri, a third-year student. “This can be a bit more challenging than it looks, since most people (and software) often work independently . . . Everyone has a unique skillset, so having multiple people work on different aspects of a single challenge helps significantly.”

During the three-hour event, representatives from several Ottawa security institutions walked around the room. They watched and mentored the students on eight teams as they bent over their laptops.

This is the first year that CySCOTT pitted the four largest post-secondary institutions in Ottawa against each other – Carleton, the University of Ottawa, Algonquin College and la Cite collegiale. Levasseur came up with the competition after doing individual seminars with each institution during the last five years.

“I thought: ‘Why don’t we do them all together and play them against each other?’ It’s a good competition,” Levasseur said.

He also treated each step in the competition as a learning opportunity. After students were instructed to find e-mail addresses for the fake company, Levasseur advised that, for security purposes, it’s best to have different usernames as company logins because e-mail addresses are widely available on the Internet.

Sonia Chiasson, a Carleton Computer Science professor who is Canada Research Chair in Human Oriented Computer Security, said the competition is a valuable experience for students.

“One thing we keep hearing from industry and government people is that they need more graduates and they need to hire more people. This Challenge is an innovative a way of getting students interested in cyber security jobs.”