In today’s technology-driven world, cyber-attacks have become an unfortunate, common occurrence. Cybersecurity, which was once reserved for large companies with massive information technology footprints, now affects all of us. At CU Denver, the TransAmerica Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics Student Club is a forum where students can develop the skills they need to become cybersecurity and IT leaders.
The cyber club, which has approximately 115 members, includes a smaller faction known as the TransAmerica Cyber Adepts. This small but mighty team of six and their leader, Business School Instructor Joseph Murdock, are primarily focused on organizing and participating in various collegiate competitions. Their most recent event was the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (RMCCDC) held in late March. After 16 hours of competition against professional “red team” hackers, the group of students from the Business School and College of Engineering, Design and Computing came in second place.
“We had real red team penetration testers attacking us at all times while we were trying to keep the entire network from going down and responding to business memos from upper management,” shared Aman Tewolde, a soon-to-be graduate of CU Denver’s Computer Science Program and IT developer at the College of Engineering, Design and Computing. “It was a beast of a competition and I learned a lot during those two days.”
Other participants echoed these sentiments, including Business School student David Petronio, who noted how challenging yet rewarding these competitions can be. “It’s very intimidating when you first get started, but it shouldn’t be—it’s all about making mistakes and learning from them.”
For Murdock, the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) events are invaluable tools that equip his students with the real-world knowledge, confidence, and hard and soft skills they need to secure cybersecurity or IT careers after graduation. “I just wish these competitions existed when I was in college,” he remarked.
Murdock joined CU Denver’s ranks three years ago after building the cyber program at Red Rocks Community College from the ground up. With 14 years of IT industry experience, Murdock knows what hiring managers look for in potential candidates, and hands-on experience in cyber competitions is a great way for students to get a leg up on the competition.
“My goal is to teach students how to learn,” explained Murdock. “Given the fast-paced nature of IT, what’s relevant today will be outdated three years from now, so I try to give students the foundational skills they need to build on and keep learning.”
This goal, coupled with the cyber club’s larger mission to empower students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity, aligns with CU Denver’s 2030 strategic goal of solving today’s most complex global problems. Tackling these grand challenges is hard work, but it’s also fun.
“One of the most fun parts for me is getting people excited about competitions, and using that excitement to recruit students,” said Jason Primavera, a club officer and information systems graduate student. “Starting out in the field can be extremely overwhelming, but the cyber club gives you a place to meet with individuals of different backgrounds and learn from each other.”
For more information on cybersecurity at CU Denver, please visit Cyber Defense Center. Students interested in getting involved with the club can visit the MyLynx cyber page or reach out to Joseph Murdock for more information.