Red River Students Win North Dakota Cybersecurity Tournament | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

(TNS) — A women-led team has continued Red River High School’s winning streak in the state’s student cybersecurity competition — and now has the swag to show for it.

Red River students Lauryn Brynjulson, Aerin Salgado, Olivia Whitney, Briley Zhang and Dimitri Kolodka took home top honors at North Dakota’s Cyber Madness High School tournament in February, the second time in the competition’s three years a Red River team has claimed the top spot.

The five students were honored at Red River on Wednesday, April 10, with letterman jackets.

“This hasn’t been a typical year,” said team adviser and Red River IT instructor Paul Zettler. “It’s been an extraordinarily great year.”

At Cyber Madness, held this year at Bismarck State College, students compete in a series of simulated cybersecurity scenarios, performing tasks like encryption and decryption and identifying and fending off a cyber attack.

The event has expanded from around a dozen teams in its first year to hundreds of students in 2024.

“These are 21st-, 22nd-century skill sets,” said Tony Aukland, tech director at North Dakota Information Technology. “These are the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

Events like Cyber Madness — which come with $1,000-per-student cash prizes and full ride scholarships to Fargo’s Emerging Digital Academy for the winning team — are part of a bid by both the state and private companies to produce and hold onto cybersecurity-savvy students.

The letterman jackets, for instance, came from Palo Alto Networks, a Santa Clara, California-based cybersecurity company that sponsors the Cyber Madness event.

Several members of the winning team already owned jackets from winning last year.

UND associate professor Prakash Ranganathan, who directs UND’s recently-formed Center for Cyber Security, noted both private companies and places like UND were looking to establish a pipeline to programs like Red River’s.

“We have a high-quality caliber of students (in Grand Forks),” Ranganathan said. “We want to make sure we have the best students for our programs.”

Red River’s team is also notable for its predominantly female team. Only one of the five members of the winning team is male.

Most of the current team came out of the school’s Girls Who Code club, a venture for which Zettler also serves as adviser. He said the club had been “instrumental” to the Cyber Madness team’s success.

Zettler asked the four female team members how many of them had been in a class dominated by boys, to which three raised their hands.

“That’s an issue, it really is,” Zettler said. “There’s pressure in Cyber Madness, and then there’s pressure in that situation and knowing you belong.”

©2024 the Grand Forks Herald (Grand Forks, N.D.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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