Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC

Congratulation to the UMBC Cyber Dawgs team, which took first place in the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (MACCDC) finals. UMBC’s team was one of eight teams out of an initial 23 that qualified for the final competition. UMBC’s Cyber Dawgs will move on to compete in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC), which will be held April 23-25, 2021.

The 2021 MACCDC regional final took place online April 1-3 and had teams fighting to protect their networks efficiently and effectively from simulated cyber threats and attacks using a scenario based on the COVID-19 global pandemic for its competition events.

The National Emergency Response Division (N.E.R.D.) is a data science-focused group within the Big Time Health Organization (BTHO), a multinational entity headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland. N.E.R.D. employees have been exceptionally busy dealing with the global health pandemic. As such, they have had to not only shift to work from home, but also expand the number of employees to support the inordinate amounts of data that is flooding each of its eight geographic locations throughout the U.S. Protecting the integrity of the data is critical, but when the data affects the delivery of health services to the public, the job of N.E.R.D. becomes even more mission critical.

The student teams will stand on the front lines of technology, alongside various healthcare providers. The main task at hand will be to ensure that pandemic-related data from state departments of health are accurate and delivered quickly. Information on outbreak locations, promising interventions, efficacy of testing, mortality rates, and other related statistics are critical so physicians, public health officials, and government entities can make informed decisions about resource allocations. Loss or inaccurate information can lead to tragic consequences. Vigilance is a must – be smart, be strong, be safe.

These regional and national competitions attract leading collegiate cybersecurity teams from across the nation. They put teams in situations that mimic scenarios they might encounter working to secure and protect online systems for government agencies and companies. Throughout each challenge, teammates work together to protect their systems from hackers and cyber attacks. At the same time, they keep their networks accessible to the users relying on them. 

The UMBC Cyber Dawgs team won the MACCDC regionals last year and were national champions in 2017. In this year’s MACCDC, George Mason placed second and Liberty University third. Good luck to the Cyber Dawgs as they compete with the winners of nine other regional competitions in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition later this month.