CLEMSON — CU Cyber, the Clemson University competitive cybersecurity team, won first place at the recent Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition at Trident Technical College in Charleston. Team captain MacKenzie Binns also earned MVP honors as the team took home its third title in four years.

“I was very proud of the team and their performance bouncing back from last year in which many were rookies,” said Dr. Kevin McKenzie, one of the team’s faculty advisors. “Most of the time the general public is never aware that companies face real scenarios like the ones that the teams did every day to deliver the services that we expect.  To be successful, this competition requires the team to work as a cohesive unit and to operate under extreme duress of which the Clemson team did very well.”

“This was a true team effort and everyone on this team deserves the win,” said Binns. “Anybody can tell someone what to do, but everyone had the ability to carry out tasks in the face of overwhelming stress and get things done.”

The CU Cyber team poses with its place trophy at the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition. From left to right, front to back: John Hoyt, Spencer Provost, Peter Schatteman, Nick Bulischeck, Mackenzie Binns, Kevin McKenzie, Foster McLane, Tyler Bautista.

The CU Cyber team poses with its place trophy at the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition. From left to right, front to back: John Hoyt, Spencer Provost, Peter Schatteman, Nick Bulischeck, Mackenzie Binns, Kevin McKenzie, Foster McLane, Tyler Bautista.
Image Credit: Clemson University

CU Cyber bested seven other schools from the state, including the University of South Carolina, College of Charleston and The Citadel. The competition put six-person “Blue Teams” in charge of a fictional medical supply company that recently lost its IT staff, giving players 30 minutes to study the company’s technical infrastructure before “Red Team” hackers began to attack.

Teams earned points by maintaining its network and services (like email and web servers) while responding to threats and keeping business systems operational. Clemson captured two out of the three main categories on its way to victory.

Some students on the team also work in Clemson’s recently-opened Cyber Security Operations Center (CSOC) in Barre Hall, experience that paid off in Sunday’s competition.

“It definitely helped,” said senior Spencer Provost. “The software they had installed is the same that we use here on campus, monitoring traffic and detecting threats.”

“We knew what to look for, but working [at the CSOC] allowed us to get a different perspective on things we wouldn’t have seen,” said Binns. “We have some clever viruses coming into Clemson and the wide range of things we’ve encountered transitioned well to the competition.”

After the University of South Carolina snapped Clemson’s two-year winning streak in 2015, CU Cyber took home the trophy for the third time in four years on Sunday.

“Our team was 100 percent new last year and we broke, we couldn’t handle it,” said Binns. “This year, most of the team was the same. we had a little flashback early on and got behind, but we were able to respond, claw back and do everything else right to win.”

The Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition is held by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic in collaboration with the South Carolina Lowcountry Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA).