Fordham CIS students (from l to r) Otto Hsu, Raymond Kram and Scott Pierangelo respond to a cyber attack.
Photo by Patrick Verel

Computer and information science (CIS) students at Fordham honed their computer defense skills on July 21 and 22 at an electronic cyber security competition held in New York City.

The students, who were called “blue cells,” were assigned to defend computer systems from cyber attacks made by other teams, which were known as “red cells.”

Blue cells received points based on their ability to keep attackers from gaining access to protected databases, obtaining vital information and shutting down defense systems.

Fordham, the only student team at the competition, finished in third place.

Joseph R. Concannon, president and chief executive officer of InfraGard, which sponsored the event, described the blue cells’ defense system in medieval terms.

“It’s like a castle with a moat around it,” Concannon said. “There are soldiers in front of that moat, with a horseback team in front of the soldiers. On the castle itself, there are cannons as well as men equipped with bows and arrows.”

In the world of cyber security, firewalls and access points take the place of moats and horseback teams.

During the competition, the Fordham team faced constant attacks and forced intrusions into their systems. Lunchtime rolled by and stacks of pizza lay untouched on round tables while empty sugar packets and coffee pots littered the coffee counter.

Team public affairs officer Raymond Kram, a student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, conducted a forensic analysis to identify a key attack and report it to a simulated FBI representative. This analysis helped contribute to the team’s third-place finish.

“What I find inspiring is how a diverse group of Fordham students came together through a common interest—cyber security,” Kram said.

The Fordham team consisted of seven undergraduate and graduate students from Fordham’s Cyber Security Research Group. Other blue cell teams included professional cyber security experts from Citigroup and the City of New York, among others.

The students trained vigorously for the event, making a trip in April to the United States Military Academy at West Point to observe cyber defense exercises. They also attended weekly seminars held by Frank Hsu, Ph.D., Clavius Distinguished Professor, and Anthony Ferrante, adjunct professor, Department of Computer and Information Science.

Fordham is planning to strengthen its cyber security offerings and curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate levels, Hsu said, before adding that a certificate program may be forthcoming.

InfraGard, a collaboration between the FBI and the private sector, staged the event at the offices of Cisco Systems at 1 Penn Plaza.