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University of Illinois Takes Top Honors at Sixth Annual Deloitte Foundation Cyber Threat Competition

Students From 15 Universities Convene at Deloitte University to Compete and Collaborate on Cyber Skills and the Workforce of the Future.

A team of students from University of Illinois won the 2020 Deloitte Foundation Cyber Threat Competition after presenting the best analysis and incident response approach to a simulated cyberattack, each received $2,000 in scholarship dollars. Students from Binghamton University, State University of New York placed second overall, and students from Texas A&M University finished third. More than 650 students participated individually from the 15 competing universities in this competition — making it the most competitive year to date.

The Deloitte Foundation Cyber Threat Competition is designed and facilitated by Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory’s Cyber practice to engage students in the business and technology dimensions of cyber risk. According to the 2019 Global Skills Index, the global appetite for developing technological skills is slowly increasing at the expense of traditional business skills.

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“The cyber talent gap is a significant challenge for organizations and governments, alike. Recent graduates joining the workforce who are equipped with cybersecurity skills as well as business acumen can be set up for future career success,” said John Rooney, principal, Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP and Deloitte Foundation board member. “Giving students experiential learning opportunities is one of the hallmarks of the Deloitte Foundation’s mission to help better prepare future talent. The Deloitte Foundation recognizes the need to both close the cybersecurity skills gap and to expand the bench strength of the future workforce.”

“Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory’s Cyber Threat Competition is designed to help prepare the next generation of cybersecurity professionals for the challenges of cyber everywhere; and for an era of hyper-connectivity and extreme digital capability with an ever-expanding attack surface. These student competitors have an opportunity to experience the real challenges and considerations organizations face when preparing for, and responding to, cyber incidents in a way that goes beyond cracking code but also understanding the potential impact and devising a path for recovery,” said Anthony Russo, a cyber principal in Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory, Deloitte & Touche LLP.

The two-round competition launched in the fall of 2019 and culminated on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. The first round tested the students’ breadth of business and technical understanding of cyber. Then, the top scoring students from each school formed a team and were invited to Deloitte University, in Westlake, Texas, to represent their school and compete in the final round — the Cyber Incident Response Simulation. The final round concluded with team presentations to the “mock executive team” made up of leaders from Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory’s cyber practice.

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While students were competing to showcase their business and cyber acumen, educators from some of the attending schools participated in a full-day collaborative brainstorming exercise within Deloitte’s Greenhouse™ Lab on ways to develop a cyber-ready workforce. From discussing key trends within the cyber industry including artificial intelligence and Internet of Things security, to sharing leading practices within the field and developing a case study that can be leveraged within the classroom, this session provided educators with key insights to help them prepare and inspire the future workforce.

Justin Monday is assistant professor of practice in the Department of Business Information and Technology, Pamplin College of Business, at Virginia Tech. During the faculty greenhouse lab, he shared how the growth and interest in cybersecurity classes and curriculum has increased. “The demand is just so great. First, students know that cyber proliferates every part of business and it’s a high demand, well-paid career path. We have designed curriculum to support risk and intrusion detection and policy and governance and supplemented that with a required field study to get the hands-on experience to fully understand the cyber security realm.”

2020 Deloitte Foundation Cyber Threat Competition Participating Universities:

  • Binghamton University, State University of New York
  • Brigham Young University
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • James Madison University
  • Michigan State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Purdue University
  • Texas A&M University
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Houston
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Washington
  • Virginia Tech

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Ethan Begalka is a senior graduating in May of 2020 from Michigan State University. He noted that the fusion of business and technical skills is what he valued most from the competition. “It was so different than expected. In my head I can think of the business side or the technical aspect, but this competition requires both. It was great for testing and understanding how both are necessary and how to convey the technical issues in a way that everyone can understand and learn.”

According to industry analysts, the global cybersecurity market is expected to grow to approximately a quarter of a trillion dollars ($251 billion) by 2023. Correlated to that statistic, Deloitte’s cyber practice continues to garner notable accolades including being positioned by Gartner as the global leader, based on revenue, in security consulting services for the seventh consecutive year. Additionally, Deloitte also was named a leader in The Forrester Wave™: Global Cybersecurity Consulting Providers, Q2 2019, based on strategy and current offerings, as well as a leader in The Forrester Wave™: Cybersecurity Incident Response Services, Q1 2019.

With more than 4,500 cyber professionals in the U.S. alone, Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory’s cyber practice helps complex organizations embrace cyber everywhere as part their strategic business objectives and more confidently leverage advanced technologies to achieve their strategic growth, innovation and performance goals.

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