National Cyber League Competition Offers Real-World Experience to Cybersecurity Students
The National Cyber League is a cybersecurity competition with offensive and defensive puzzle-based and capture the flag games. Excelsior’s National Cybersecurity Student Association Chapter participates annually. The NCL is a virtual training that prepares high school and college students for potential real-world situations. Students participate in the preseason, individual, and team games at the level of their choosing, giving them opportunities to be successful and expand their skills. The number of Excelsior students participating in the NCL has steadily increased each season since 2017.
Students who participate in the NCL gain cybersecurity experience, prepare for the workplace, and increase their skill levels for more competitions down the road. The spring season is held from March until May; the fall season starts in October and ends in November. Students register three weeks prior to the start of the season and can practice in the virtual gym before the competition begins.
According to Cyber Skyline power rankings, “Every year, over 10,000 students from more than 300 colleges and universities across the US participate in the NCL competitions.” To put into perspective how well Excelsior College has been doing in the NCL, as of spring 2020, Excelsior College is nationally ranked at No. 34; in the fall 2018 season, Excelsior was nationally ranked No. 55. The College ranks No. 13 in the eastern United States. All schools are ranked based on their best team performance, their best individual student performance, and the combined individual student performance.
“Excelsior has consistently ranked on the Top 100 Leaderboard for the past three NCL seasons, which demonstrates how committed our students are in competing on the national level,” says Amelia Estwick, director of the National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College and the NCL coach.
“I think the exposure and skills [gained] are the biggest takeaways. You learn things you would never learn in the classroom. This provides you a way to practice everything you learned, too.” – Melissa Burger
In the NCL 2020 spring season, Excelsior had three teams rank in the top 100. The Oops team placed No. 40, scoring 2,385 out of 3,000 points with a 74.1 percent accuracy rate. In the 2019 fall season, Excelsior had two teams listed as a top performer, placing No. 55 and No. 99 out of the top 100 teams. The Excelsior Gunters team scored 2,195 out of 3,000 points, with an accuracy rate of 89.23 percent, placing them on the leaderboard as No. 55. Excelsior’s Cookie Bandits team scored 1,850 out of 3,000 points with an accuracy rate of 66.23 percent, placing them on the leaderboard at No. 99.
Excelsior graduate Melissa Burger, who earned a Associate in Science in Liberal Arts in 2017, a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts in 2018, and is pursuing a Master of Science in Cybersecurity, has competed in the NCL with the NCSA chapter. This past fall, she was the captain of the Cookie Bandits team. “I think the exposure and skills [gained] are the biggest takeaways. You learn things you would never learn in the classroom. This provides you a way to practice everything you learned, too,” Burger says of the experience.