Baylor cyber security team set to take on regionals

Story by Madalyn Watson | Staff Writer, Video by Julia Lawrenz | Broadcast Reporter

Baylor’s cyber security student organization will compete in the regional round of the Southwest Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in Tulsa, Okla. on March 22 and 23.

The team finished as one of the top eight teams out of 21 at the qualifiers competition on Feb. 16, allowing them to continue onto the regional round.

Dr. Jeff Donahoo, the team’s coach and professor in the computer science department, said he is training the team for the upcoming competition.

“We are busy preparing to make sure we can take on the best teams of the southwest,” Donahoo said.

During their twice a week practices, Donahoo said they try to simulate scenarios they expect to see at regionals.

“The regionals are a two day contest, where students defend their network against attackers that are actually professional cyber security attackers that do this every day for their job,” Donahoo said.

The team that wins regionals will move on to the national championship in April, according to the national competition’s website.

“I’m incredibly proud of the team because they have worked tirelessly throughout all of this year,” Donahoo said.

Last year, Baylor’s cyber security student organization won first place in the regional competition, moving them on to the national competition.

“I’m looking forward to going all the way to nationals,” Donahoo said.

Columbia, Mo., junior Maddie de la Torre, current team captain, said she was an alternate on the team last year.

“Everyone but one person on the team graduated last year, so this is a brand new team,” de la Torre said.

Their team consists of eight starters and four alternates.

“We’ve been prepping really hard, still a lot of work that still needs to be done, but hopefully we’re ready by March 22,” de la Torre said.

Last year, de la Torre was the only woman in Baylor’s cyber security team. There are now two other woman on the team this year.

Donahoo said that having a variety of different people with different backgrounds, helps the team succeed.

“You need as many perspectives on defending your infrastructure as you can get because you’re being attacked by people from around the world,” Donahoo said.

Donahoo said cyber security is a rapidly growing area of study.

“Defending that infrastructure, defending that data [and] defending sort of the keys to the kingdom is a critical job,” Donahoo said.

Because of cyber security’s growing popularity, many companies have sponsored the competition in the past such as Walmart, Uber and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

“Companies are aggressively pursuing cyber security talents, and they’re paying big bucks,” Donahoo said.

Donahoo said the competition exposes the students to potential future employers and could even lead to job offers.

De la Torre echoed Doanhoo, saying the team’s success at the qualifiers will pave the way toward future success not only in competitions, but possibly after they graduate.

“I think everyone is putting in a lot of work, and everyone’s working really hard and trying to find the holes that we don’t understand [and] develop those so that we can really be the best we can be,” de la Torre said.