Cyber Aces State Championship

Inver Hills hosting premier cybersecurity competition thanks to one of the nation’s best IT programs

In 2011, the Network Technology and Security program at Inver Hills Community College was designated a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance for Two-Year Colleges by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to recognize the program’s cybersecurity curriculum. Inver Hills has leveraged that national honor by becoming one of seven sites across the nation to host a Cyber Aces State Championship. Cyber Aces is a national organization with the mission to help young people with a high aptitude for information technology to develop their talent and make a major contribution to the physical and economic security of the United States.

Cyber AcesThe top 10 percent of Minnesota participants taking free Cyber Aces Online courses will be invited to the Inver Hills campus Saturday, March 15, 2014, for the state championship. The cyber standouts will then compete in NetWars, a cyberdefense simulation competition that government agencies, the U.S. military and private corporations use to test and train the best cyber talent in the nation. NetWars is an interactive learning environment—elite, real-world and hands-on—that focuses on the skills and protocols information security professionals exercise on a daily basis.

“This is a great opportunity to introduce students to the world of cybersecurity,” said Kevin Gyolai, dean of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) at Inver Hills. “We are also using the competition as a way to celebrate that we have one of the best two-year cybersecurity programs in the country.”

NetWarsGyolai added that Minnesota had about 500 individuals participate in Cyber Aces Online courses, with 35 top performers qualifying for NetWars. “I think that was the highest percentage of all the state competitions,” he said. “That shows we have good local skill levels in IT.”

Inver Hills and the Network Technology and Security program also belong to a grant-funded Center of Excellence recognized by Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Inver Hills earned this national and system recognition for exemplary cybersecurity education due in part to its work with Cisco Systems to offer an Advanced Network Security certificate. In fact, Inver Hills is one of only a handful of authorized Cisco Instructor Training Centers in the U.S.

“Recently, authorities on the national level have realized that anyone working with computers is part of this nation’s cybersecurity team,” Gyolai said, “and the job prospects for students who get industry certificates are very good.”

Executive Order 13636: Cybersecurity Framework

Cyber AcesRecognizing that the national and economic security of the United States depends on the reliable functioning of critical infrastructure, the President issued Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, in February 2013. It directed NIST to work with stakeholders to develop a voluntary framework—based on existing standards, guidelines, and practices—for reducing cyber risks to critical infrastructure. — Courtesy of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce

Feb. 12, 2014—Today the Obama Administration is announcing the launch of the Cybersecurity Framework, which is the result of a year-long private-sector led effort to develop a voluntary how-to guide for organizations in the critical infrastructure community to enhance their cybersecurity. The Framework is a key deliverable from the Executive Order on “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” that President Obama announced in the 2013 State of the Union.

Through the development of this Framework, industry and government are strengthening the security and resiliency of critical infrastructure in a model of public-private cooperation. Over the past year, individuals and organizations throughout the country and across the globe have provided their thoughts on the kinds of standards, best practices, and guidelines that would meaningfully improve critical infrastructure cybersecurity. The Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) consolidated that input into the voluntary Cybersecurity Framework that we are releasing today. — Courtesy of The White House

To lure defensive hackers, Alan Paller, founder of the SANS Institute, a nonprofit computer security training organization, created Cyber Aces. In a recent New York Times article, Paller likened the current demand for cyberwarriors to the need for fighter pilots during World War II. No experience in IT or cybersecurity is required for participation in Cyber Aces. High school and college students, jobseekers and active-duty military personnel as well as high school teachers and administrators are encouraged to register for Cyber Aces Online courses for the chance to compete in future Cyber Aces Championships.

In addition to Cyber Aces, IHCC will be promoting the college’s Advanced Network Security Certificate program by offering scholarships of up to $1,000 to high school students who have taken Cisco Networking Academy classes, thanks to a $10,000 grant from Xcel Energy. Beginning January 2014, both full- and part-time students who enroll in any of Inver Hill’s Information Technology (IT) programs will be eligible.

“These scholarships will help students fund their dream to be on the front lines of cybersecurity,” said Gyolai, adding that some high school students who pick up industry certificates at a Cisco Networking Academy might be ready for entry-level jobs. “But to get a good-paying job, they need further education. With the help of the scholarships, Inver Hills has created a clear pathway from high school to college for students pursuing a career in IT.”

The Cyber Aces Minnesota State Championship takes place Saturday, March 15, 2014, in the Fine Arts building on the Inver Grove Heights campus of Inver Hills Community College. The basic event schedule includes:

  • 7:30 a.m Breakfast
  • 8 a.m. – 9 a.m. Ethics Panel
  • 9:15 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Learning with the Pros
  • 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. NetWars Tips and Tricks
  • 11:45 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. NetWars Competition (box lunch available)
  • 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Awards and Reception | NetWars After Action Review
For more information about the Cyber Aces State Championship at Inver Hills Community College, contact:
If you are interested in the IT scholarship, please fill out the Inver Hills Foundation Scholarship Application Form. You can also review Application Tips before starting the form. Be sure to mention your participation in Cisco Networking Academy in the “Narrative” section of the application. Questions can be directed to:
For more information about enrolling in the Network Technology and Security program or the Advanced Network Security Certificate program, contact:

Cyber Aces

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