On March 17 and 18, teams of college and university students from across California and other southwestern states will descend on the Sheraton Fairplex in Pomona to match their defensive skills against live opponents as part of the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC).

Teams competed in a qualifier January 30 for the right to advance to the regional competition. Some Bay Area teams will drive all day to reach the Western Regional venue Friday night.

Dr. Dan Manson, Professor and Department Chair for Computer Information Systems at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, has coordinated the Western Regional CCDC since 2008. He said it’s exciting to see new teams from schools such as San Diego State University and Arizona State University.

The University of California, Riverside and Stanford University have advanced to the regional competition for the first time. This puts them up against strong contenders like the University of California, Berkeley team, which took first place at the Western Regionals in 2014 and 2015.

“A major trend we have seen in the past few years is involvement from larger-name schools,” explained Manson. “Having Stanford and UC Berkeley compete this year is great, because of their Bay Area and Pac-12 rivalry in sports, and the rivalry between northern and southern California schools.”

The competition is unique among cyber events because it focuses on the operational aspect of managing and protecting an existing network infrastructure. Teams’ scores are based on their ability to detect and respond to outside threats, maintain availability of existing services such as mail servers and web servers, respond to business requests such as the addition or removal of services, and balance security needs against business needs.

The team that triumphs in Pomona in March will travel to San Antonio, Texas, in April for the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC). Last year’s national champions, the University of Central Florida Knights, were awarded a trip to Washington D.C. to tour the nation’s top research and national security cyber sites; each student on the winning team was offered an internship with defense contractor and event sponsor Raytheon.