‘Security Dawgs’ look to earn collegiate cybersecurity berth

Benton’s Steve Osborn part of the team as an alternate

By Pete Rosenbery – SIU News Service 

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s “Security Dawgs” will host a section of the annual Illinois Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition on Saturday, Feb. 17.

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SIU is one of two sites to host the statewide, 11-team competition, which mirrors what students will see in the corporate technology world. The “Security Dawgs” will seek a third state title in six years. Also competing at SIU will be teams from John A. Logan College, Lake Land College Southeastern Illinois College.

Teams work to keep their site secure from hackers and unwanted cyberattacks, and are responsible for system maintenance, upgrades, and completing other requests, such as installing or upgrading a website in the simulated competition. Teams earn points based upon how successful they are at accomplishing the business tasks, in addition to identifying and stopping hacker attacks, and writing incident reports.

Team built on camaraderie, chemistry

The Security Dawgs return four members from last year’s team and have been practicing since the start of the fall 2017 semester. Several of the squad members were on the team that finished fifth out of 179 teams in the National Cyber League last fall.

“A big part of our plan for success is our camaraderie as a team,” Belle Woodward, an associate professor in the School of Information Systems and Applied Technologies and faculty adviser for the registered student organization, said. “We’ve gotten really close as a team over the last year. I think that really helps when it comes down to that last rush of constant, daily practice. I couldn’t be more proud of how much work these guys have put in to learning for this competition, and not being afraid to embrace more things to do beyond it.”

Competition enhances students’ academic experience 

Woodward said the event gives SIU students a chance to receive a practical look into many of the skills they learn in class, defend against attackers in the competition, and reminds them that the end goal is making sure a businesses’ network is not interrupted.

“This is also a valuable experience in teamwork and commitment,” she said. “Many students who participate learn enough to be more than ready for even the hardest classes they’ll face at SIU, and have a leg up in real-world experience.” 

Cybersecurity event expects strong field

The Security Dawgs have a strong reputation in collegiate cybersecurity competitions. The team has won three state competitions, most recently in 2014, and finished second in 2015, 2016, and 2017. The team has advanced to the Midwest regional competition in seven of the last 10 years, including a wildcard berth in 2017.

The other state competition site is Moraine Valley Community College, which is hosting six more teams.

The top team in the state will advance to the Midwest regional competition, March 23-24, at Moraine Valley Community College. There they will face the top teams from Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Second-place in the respective state competitions will compete for a wildcard slot on March 10. The Midwest regional winner advances to the 11th annual National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition April 13-15 in San Antonio, Texas.

The Team

Security Dawg team members are:


  • Benton: Steve Osborn, information systems technologies, junior (alternate)
  • Centralia: Ronald DeBernardi, information systems technologies, senior
  • Hoffman Estates: Christian Scott, information systems technologies, senior
  • Marion: Trenton Taylor, information systems technologies, senior
  • Mattoon: Mark Blume, information systems technologies, senior
  • Northbrook: Ben Fairbanks, information systems technologies, junior
  • Oak Lawn: Jacob Kupres, information systems technologies, senior (alternate)
  • Pittsburg: Curtis McRoy, information systems technologies, senior (alternate)


  • Naples: Thomas Birch, information systems technologies, senior


  • Sauk Centre: Brianna Yagow, information systems technologies, junior


  • Imperial: Jesse Frawley, information systems technologies, junior (alternate)


  • Houston: Vincent Davis, computer science, senior


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