Students master computer security essentials at 17th UB Lockdown competition

Published May 15, 2024

On the eve of the launch of the hottest new video game, a shadowy group of cybercriminals has set its sights on disrupting the release — and the company’s CEO has enlisted your company to stop the attack.

That was the challenge facing 77 competitors on 13 teams from universities from across the U.S. at UB’s Collegiate Lockdown cyberdefense competition April 20.

The completely student-run competition provides a hands-on opportunity for participants to learn the computer security challenges that businesses and organizations face every day. Since 2016, students from the School of Management and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have hosted 17 Collegiate Lockdown events.

“Our students take tremendous pride in organizing a fun and educational competition,” says David Murray, clinical professor of management science and systems, and associate dean for undergraduate programs. “The longevity and national reach of this event are a testament to our present and past students’ dedication to excellence.”

In addition to UB, teams from Baldwin Wallace University, Dakota State University, Indiana Institute of Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, University of California Berkeley, University of Central Florida, University of Florida and Utah Valley University worked to defend computer systems from hacking attempts, ensure network uptime in a simulated corporate environment and complete assigned tasks — all while staying under budget.

In the end, Dakota State University took first place in the competition, while the University of Central Florida took second and UC Berkeley finished third.

Mahek Acharya, a undergraduate in UB’s information technology and management program, served as Gold Team leader and has planned the event and coordinated registration in past years.

“An important lesson I’ve learned is that communication is crucial for a successful competition,” she says. “A lot is happening on the day of the event, and there might be some unexpected challenges, but the shared enthusiasm of competitors and the organizers makes it possible to collaborate seamlessly with so many schools and deliver the best outcome.”

Aaron Fiebelkorn, BS ’15, MBA ’17, was a UB student when the Lockdown competitions began. Now he serves as team lead in the Cybersecurity Shared Services Program Management Office of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA); he continues to participate in the Lockdown event, offering guidance and expertise to cybersecurity newcomers.

“Undoubtedly, participating in the Lockdown accelerated my career trajectory, propelling me ahead of my peers,” he says. “Now it’s my turn to give back and assist these students in any way I can. Witnessing the innovative changes and unique approaches they bring to the competition each year is truly remarkable.”