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UNH students detect online threats, focus on security

Union Leader Correspondent

March 18. 2018 11:00PM

UNH senior Jeremy Plsek has been on the Cyber Security Team for two years. Industry leaders say when he graduates, he will be able to walk into a job starting at $60K to $80K per year. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

DURHAM — A team of students from the University of New Hampshire participated in the Northeast Regional Cyber Defense Competition in Durham over the weekend.

During the competition, each team began with an identical set of hardware and software. They were scored on their ability to detect outside threats, maintain availability of existing services, respond to requests for services and balance security needs against business needs.

This year’s competition focused on using cloud technologies to support a security operations center and provide incident response.

“It’s an exhilarating experience,” UNH senior Harrison Pham said Friday afternoon. “We’re learning and we’re reacting to what’s happening to us.”

The students from UNH blocked the door so people could not look in and asked visitors to knock slowly and state their business.

In another part of Kingsbury Hall, a group of professionals were working to hack their systems.

“Our job here is to make things interesting for the teams,” Tom Kopchak of Hurricane Labs in Independence, Ohio, said.

Kopchak said participating in the competition when he was in college set his life’s course.

“It’s great exposure to the real world,” Kopchak said.

Phil Harvey, a technical director at Raytheon, a platinum sponsor of the competition, said students who enter the field of cyber defense earn $60,000 to $80,000 a year right out of college.

There are between 20,000 and 40,000 unfilled jobs in the field at any given time, he said.

“It’s important for the nation; it’s important for companies,” Harvey said.

Harvey said 14,000 vulnerabilities were detected over the last year. Some of the real-world attackers have been identified as coming from China and Russia, but finding out where the attack came from is difficult, he said.

Ken Graf has been a computer security lecturer at UNH for nine years and coaches the competition team. He worked at Liberty Mutual in Dover for seven years and said employees in the field can earn $180,000 to $190,000 with eight years of experience.

“The seniors that graduate on the team, they almost always have a choice about where they want to go for work,” Graf said.

He said not all of the students who participate on UNH’s team are majoring in computer-related fields.

“It’s more about the mentality,” Graf said. “It’s fun fostering that mentality.”

Leading cyber talent from colleges in Maine, Massachusetts and New York participated in the competition.

The winner, University of Buffalo, has earned the chance to vie for the national title from April 13 to 15 in Orlando, Fla.

Business General News Durham

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