<< All News Monday, March 2, 2020 - 09:00am Categories:

NDIT’s Lucas Pippenger, Tony Aukland, serve as judge and advisor. BSC students Jacob Langeurd and Ian Johnson also work on the NDIT Security team.

In a digital world where virtually all content can be consumed from any device at any time, and where social media is the Mecca for Generation Z, the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition is the Rolls Royce of events for students applying cyber skills that protect the world’s devices and information. Bismarck State College’s team proved their cyber savvy in February by qualifying to compete in the 2020 regional event, a path to nationals.

The annual competition involves regional qualifiers held around the country, with the national championships held annually in the San Antonio area. While BSC had competed previously in the event, this year the Qualifier involved 17 teams from around the nation. BSC placed in the top 8, enabling them to advance to the regional competition the end of March.

According to Wikipedia, the NCCDC is unique from other cyber defense competitions in that it focuses on the operational aspect of managing and protecting an existing network infrastructure. While other exercises examine the abilities of a group of students to design, configure, and protect a network over the course of an entire semester, this competition is focused on the more operational task of assuming administrative and protective duties for an existing commercial network.

BSC Cybersecurity Professor Matt Frohlich, the team’s coach, noted: “This career is 100% in demand, and these exercises are 100% focused on the real-world challenges that business and government face every day protecting their users, systems, networks and data from cyber threats. This competition is a great way for students to apply what they learn in the classroom and also grow their competency with real, hands-on scenarios.”

Teams are assessed based on their ability to detect and respond to outside threats, maintain availability of existing services such as mail servers and web servers, respond to business requests such as the addition or removal of additional services, and balance security needs against business needs.

BSC partnered with global cybersecurity leader Palo Alto Networks in 2018 to help grow the college’s Cybersecurity and Computer Networks Program. As a result, BSC's AAS program has grown to nearly 130 students, an increase of approximately 42%. They also developed a Bachelor’s degree in Cybersecurity with 15 students currently enrolled in the program.

“BSC’s forward-leaning approach to cybersecurity education is helping advance North Dakota’s goal of Every Student. Every School. Cyber Educated,” said team advisor and North Dakota Information Technology Security Analyst Tony Aukland. “While not every K-12 student will pursue a career or have the affinity to want to compete in cybersecurity challenges, every student will benefit from the computer science and cybersecurity skills that are foundational in today's careers.”

BSC faculty and event judges observe the competition.

NDIT is also partnering with Palo Alto Networks, the Governor’s Office and Girl Scouts of the USA to host a Cybersecurity Education and Diversity Summit April 20 at Bismarck State College. The intent of the Summit is to highlight the global demand for cybersecurity professionals and help North Dakota become a center of gravity for cybersecurity by expanding the talent pool and building on the statewide focus of “Every Student. Every School. Cyber Educated.”

North Dakota also leads the SANS Institute's Girls Go Cyber Start program by per capita participation for the second year running, with nearly 300 girls participating and 109 girls advancing to the second phase of the program.

During the CCDC qualifier, all teams are given a 4-hour, continual window to post as many points as possible (only during the qualifier is this the case). There are various goals of the different levels of the CCDC. In the Qualifier, teams are given a set of machines and required to harden them. Not every vulnerability, mis-configuration, or poor security practice is scored. A few examples that may gain points are:

  • Removing unauthorized users

  • Removing software prohibited by corporate policy

  • Implementing best security practices (such as implementing a maximum password age)

  • Updating required software

During the qualifier, teams connect to a virtualization environment via VPN where they will be presented with a group of virtual machines running a mix of Windows, Ubuntu, and Debian operating systems.  During the regional competition, a live event being held March 28th and 29th, teams will compete in a blue team vs. red team format. The regional winners move on to vie for the National Championship in April.


This year the team of BSC students includes:

  • Jacob Langeurd**

  • Ian Johnson**

  • Austin Haakenson

  • Jared Phelps

  • Nicholas Everitt

  • Cole Oster

  • Richard Sagmiller

  • Justin Johnson

(**BSC student and NDIT Security Team member)

The 8 teams competing in the next regional round are:

  • Bismarck State College

  • Dakota State College

  • University of Alaska Anchorage

  • University of Alaska Fairbanks

  • University of Central Florida

  • University of Hawaii Manoa

  • University of Kansas Edwards

  • University of Kansas Lawrence

The BSC Cyber Team is coached by BSC Professor Matt Frohlich.  During the event, Lucas Pippenger (NDIT Security) and Chandler Raab (ND National Guard) were remote site judges.  In attendance were:

BSC Professors:

  • Matt Frohlich

  • Nick See

  • Tanya Taplin

  • Klyde Whitman

  • Art Bakke (Adjunct Professor)

BSC Staff:

  • Tammy Heick (Cybersecurity Outreach Coordinator)

  • Karen Arlien (Department Chair Computers and Office Technology)


  • Tony Aukland Team Advisor

<< All News