An interdisciplinary team of Virginia Tech students celebrated a stunning victory at the fourth annual Deloitte Foundation Cyber Threat Competition for their analysis and incident response approach to a simulated cyberattack.  

The competition consists of two rounds, one that is conducted online and a second round where participants pitch their proposed responses to a panel at the Deloitte Leadership Center in West Lake, Texas. Each member of the winning team was awarded $2,000 in scholarship money.

“All of our team members were interested in cybersecurity, but brought slightly different perspectives about how to problem solve,” said Anirudh Bagde, a former intern with Facebook and a current student in the Department of Computer Science. “We were really surprised when we won, but looking back on our work, it wasn’t that unexpected. We put a lot of effort into the final presentation.”

Bagde, who will have the opportunity to take the real-world knowledge he gained from this competition to Facebook when he graduates in May, feels very prepared for life after graduation.

“If the competition validated anything, it demonstrated my resourcefulness and ability to problem solve under pressure in a bona fide corporate environment,” he said.

The team included members from the Pamplin College of Business and the College of Engineering majoring in computer science, computer engineering, and business information technology.

“It was really refreshing and exciting to see an organization sponsor a competition that dedicated so much time and resources to developing the next wave of cybersecurity leaders,” said Danny Colmenares, a student from the Pamplin College of Business. “I think it’s clear to see that Virginia Tech has done a phenomenal job developing the foundation for students to pursue the fields that interest them and are developing some of the best cybersecurity talent in the country.”

Colmenares will graduate in May and hopes to pursue a career in cybersecurity education.

Andy Wong, a computer engineering major from the team, plans on working in cybersecurity upon graduation and appreciated being able to put classroom knowledge to work in a real-world scenario.

“Most of the competitions I know of are more technical. This competition had a story line, and that made you feel invested in the outcome. It was cool to apply what we learn in class every day and see how a real company responds to these kinds of threats,” said Wong.

The competition is designed and facilitated by Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory Cyber Risk Services in an effort to support the development of the next generation of cyber leaders. The Deloitte Foundation Cyber Threat Competition provides a competitive and interactive forum for college students to hone the skills needed to address increasingly sophisticated cyber risks in the marketplace.

“Being a student in Pamplin helped me understand the client's point of view from a business perspective,” said Nicholas Herman, a student from the Pamplin College of Business. “This was an essential part of the competition where I helped to contribute by looking at the business side of things rather than being strictly technically focused, and it proved to be an asset.”

The four-member team consisted of Wong, a junior majoring in computer engineering from Williamstown, New Jersey; Bagde, a senior majoring in computer science from Chantilly, Virginia; Colmenares, a senior majoring in business information technology from Vienna, Virginia; and Herman, a freshman majoring in business information technology from Charlotte, North Carolina.

"The balance of their innate technical ability, business acumen, and overall fun-filled personalities was truly refreshing,” said Dan Willerth, the team’s coach and senior consultant at Deloitte in the Washington, D.C. area. “There is no doubt in my mind that our industry is in good hands with these future cyber warriors."

Virginia Tech is ranked No. 6 in the nation by for its master of information technology program in cybersecurity. The master of information technology overall program is ranked No. 2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Read the Deloitte release here.

Written by Amy Loeffler

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