McAfee Inc. Engineers Expose RIT Students to Real World Computer Security Threats

Intense security competition challenges students to build and defend computer networks

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Security and system administrators at any given corporation thwart computer breaches and security threats on a daily basis. They are the ones responsible for building and defending corporations’ computer networks and systems against both internal and external attacks. An infiltration by a computer hacker can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost time and information.

In an effort to expose Rochester Institute of Technology computing students to these real-world types of computer security threats, engineers from McAfee Inc. (NYSE:MFE) will challenge student teams in the third annual computer security competition, Build and Defend Your Digital Fortress, on Thursday, March 15, and Friday, March 16.

According to data from McAfee Avert Labs, there are more than 232,000 known threats and thousands more that are yet to be identified. McAfee researchers discover on average approximately 100 to 200 new variants of threats daily. Given current trends, McAfee expects the 300,000th threat to be identified by the end of 2007, demonstrating the ongoing growth potential of malicious code threats.

“Today’s network, system and security administrators are faced with many challenges ranging from limited resources to unreasonable business demands to determined attackers,” says Daryl Johnson, professor of networking, security and systems administration at RIT. “A company’s information infrastructure is limited by its budgeted resources and the vulnerability of providing services on the Internet. Those challenges are significant, but can pale in comparison to the stress of fending off resolute attackers. This competition is designed to include as many of the choices and challenges that a network, system or security administrator might face in defending their corporate information infrastructure.”

In the first phase of the competition, students will be given a list of customer requirements much like a corporation would request. For example, the students will be required to put various services on their networks such as e-mail and web servers. The students will have approximately 14 hours on Thursday, March 15, to design and implement their networks.

The second portion of the contest on the morning of Friday, March 16, will be the attack and defend portion in which the McAfee engineers will unleash a set of internal and external attacks against the students’ networks.

The students will be scored throughout the various phases of the competition. Students will receive points if they are able to keep their networks running throughout the attacks as well as if they are able to determine vulnerabilities and remedy potential security breaches on their own. In the final phase of the competition, the students will perform a forensic analysis to assess damage to their systems, and a winning team will be determined.

Jason Koppe, a third-year applied networking and systems administration major in RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences participated in the security contest last year and will compete again this year.

“The competition gave us the opportunity to implement incredible cutting edge technology that helps defend networks from malicious attacks,” says Koppe. “We gained an incredible amount of knowledge by participating in the build, defend, and analyze portions. We also learned a great deal directly from the McAfee engineers. These security experts taught us many cool concepts. The competition was truly invaluable because the best preparation for real-life situations is the practice of solving a business-critical problem in the heat of the moment.”

Ten teams, comprised primarily of applied networking and systems administration students, will participate. Prizes will be awarded to the top three teams.

“In today’s threat landscape, we’re seeing evidence of the rise of professional and organized crime in malware creation, along with the use of sophisticated techniques that can disguise their malicious purpose on a more rapid and complex scale,” says George Heron, chief scientist for McAfee. “The McAfee Day event will offer students the opportunity to learn more about real-life security events, including the types of threats we see in the industry, the motivating drivers behind malware writers and how skill levels used in today’s threat landscape have evolved.”

MEDIA NOTE: The computer security competition will be held in Building 70, Rm. 2320. The attack and defend portion of the competition will be from 9 a.m. to noon Friday, March 16. The awards ceremony will be held at 3:45 p.m. on Friday in the Golisano College auditorium.

About RIT
Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for students with hearing loss. More than 15,500 full- and part-time students are enrolled in RIT’s 340 career-oriented and professional programs, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For nearly two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT among the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. The Princeton Review features RIT in its 2007 Best 361 Colleges rankings and named the university one of America’s “Most Wired Campuses.” RIT is also featured in Barron’s Best Buys in Education.

About McAfee Inc.
McAfee, Inc., is the leading dedicated security technology company. Headquartered in Santa Clara, California, McAfee delivers proactive and proven solutions and services that secure systems and networks around the world. With its unmatched security expertise and commitment to innovation, McAfee empowers home users, businesses, the public sector and service providers with the ability to block attacks, prevent disruptions, and continuously track and improve their security.

NOTE: McAfee is a registered trademark of McAfee, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the United States and/or other countries. McAfee Red in connection with security is distinctive of McAfee brand products. All other registered and unregistered trademarks herein are the sole property of their respective owners. © 2007 McAfee, Inc. All Rights Reserved