Excelsior’s National Cybersecurity Student Association Wraps Up a Successful Year of Cyber Competition

During the fall 2019 season, Excelsior College sponsored four teams to compete in the National Cyber League (NCL). This year, a record 23 students, including six undergraduate and 14 graduate students, in addition to two Excelsior alumni and an intern participated.

The National Cyber League is a cybersecurity competition with offensive and defensive puzzle-based and capture the flag games. 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.

The NCL is a competition that Excelsior’s National Cybersecurity Student Association Student Chapter participates in annually. The NCSA Student Chapter is an educational, nonprofit entity dedicated to enhancing the educational and professional development of cybersecurity students through activities, networking, and collaboration. The organization connects members with workplace professionals, distributes literature, conducts activities, helps mentor and train students, provides a support group for students, and helps members network with peers and security professionals.

Based on the NCL 2019 fall season leaderboard, Excelsior had two teams listed as a top performer, placing #55 and #99 out of the top 100 teams. The Excelsior Gunters team scored 2195/3000 points, with an accuracy rate of 89.23 percent, placing them on the leaderboard as #55. The Excelsior’s Cookie Bandits team scored 1850/3000 points with an accuracy rate of 66.23 percent, placing them on the leaderboard as #99.

Excelsior graduate Melissa Burger, who earned a AS in Liberal Arts in 2017, a BS in Liberal Arts in 2018, and is pursuing a MS in cybersecurity, has competed in the NCL with the NCSA Student Chapter. This past fall, she was the captain of Excelsior’s 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.

Students who participate in the NCL gain advantages such as cybersecurity experience, preparation for the workplace, and increasing their skill levels for more competitions down the road. The 2019 spring season was held from March until May; the fall season started in October and ended in November. The NCL spring 2020 season will commence in March 2020. 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 is doing in the NCL, in the fall 2019 season, Excelsior College was nationally ranked at #34; in the fall 2018 season, Excelsior was nationally ranked #55. All schools are ranked based on their best team performance, their best individual student performance, and the combined individual student performance. To have not one, but two teams in the top 100 demonstrates how much the school is improving. Amelia Estwick, director of the National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College and the NCL coach, said, “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.”