Team Metro takes third in cyber defense competition

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Team Metro at the 2018 Minnesota Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition at Hennepin Technical College on Feb. 10. Photo courtesy of Faisal Kaleem.


Metro State cyber security students took third place at the Minnesota Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Team Metro was the defending CCDC champion, but fell to first place finisher St. Cloud State. The team from Duluth’s Lake Superior College finished second. St. Cloud State will advance to the Midwest Regional Qualifier in Illinois, March 23 to 24.

Regional winners move on to the national competition, held this year in San Antonio, Texas in April. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, bested nine other teams to win the 2017 national championship.

The 2018 Minnesota CCDC was held at Hennepin Technical College. Team Metro competed against eight other teams from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

At CCDC events, teams defend their computer network system from being hacked by a “red team” composed of professional hackers and penetration testers. They simulate external hackers attempting to hack a computer system. The competition helps students assess their understanding and competency in protecting a corporate network and business information systems.

Team Metro is led by faculty advisor Faisal Kaleem, associate professor in the Department of Information and Computer Sciences. Team Metro consisted of 11 student members: Nicholas Antwi, Bijesh Bajracharya, Tsion Fekadu, Angela Hary, Kyle Henson, Alex Hepp, Zinet Kemal, Richard Ketelsen, Abidemi Lawal, Vyacheslav  Makharovich, and Nyphen Sanders.

Teamwork is always vital in a competition and Team Metro shined on that part this year, according to their advisor.

“I saw a true team performance this year with better communication, support, and teamwork,” said Kaleem.

Team member Richard Ketelsen agreed. “The teamwork is the best part of the event in my opinion,” Ketelsen said. “It is a pretty intense experience and aside from all of the technical knowledge that the players receive, they also receive months of experience working together as a team to achieve a goal.”

Kaleem also cited the increased participation by female students. Team Metro included three women this year.

Since fall 2017, the team practiced every Saturday for several hours. “During the last week before the competition, they met every single day to prepare for the competition,” said Kaleem.

Team member Tsion Fekadu said the team worked hard to research the computer systems they had to defend. They learned to work in a diverse group, and experienced the joy of having their hard work pay off.

This the fourth year Metro State has entered the state competition. The team finished second in 2015 and 2016.

To prepare for next year’s competition, Metro State plans to offer more practice exercises to simulate the real competition. The team will utilize the state-of-the-art cyber range that Metro State just acquired, said Kaleem. A cyber range is a virtual environment that helps students learn to detect and react to hacker attacks.

To learn more about Team Metro and cyber defense competitions, email