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WVU Students Unlock Cybersecurity Potential in NATO-Sponsored International Competition

In April 2024, a team of West Virginia University students participated in one of the world’s premier cybersecurity competitions, held for the first time on WVU’s campus. 

Locked Shields, now in its fourth year, is an exercise created by NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, with participation from over 40 nations. The competition sees "Blue Teams” from around the world defend computer networks against real-time intrusions from “Red Teams." 2024 marks WVU’s fourth time participating in Locked Shields, and its first time hosting the United States’ Blue Team operations. 

Students from the John Chambers College of Business and Economics, the Reed College of Media, the College of Law and the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources formed WVU’s student team. They operated in conjunction with trained professionals from the West Virginia National Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury Department and several other public and private entities. 

“It was overwhelming at first to be around all these industry professionals,” said MIS major Jared Icenhower, of Jackson, OH. “There’s a huge learning curve, but there’s only so much you can learn in the classroom. If you want to step into this type of environment, it’s definitely challenging, but you learn a lot.” 

The exercise was truly multidisciplinary. While Management Information Systems (MIS) and Computer Science students directly combated Red Team intrusions, media students crafted public information strategies and law students determined who had legal standing to access certain systems. 

It would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience if it weren’t for the possibility of real-life cyberattacks. If one should happen in the future, these students will be prepared for it. 

“I would say the coolest part was just being a part of something at this scale,” said MIS major Brandon Biggins, of Arthurdale, WV. “It's the largest live-fire cybersecurity competition in the world. It was really interesting to see how an experienced team operated to handle vulnerable systems.” 

Of course, the students weren’t alone. They were assisted by WVU faculty like Chris Ramezan, coordinator of the Chambers College’s business cybersecurity management program. 

“Experiential learning is the hallmark of our college,” said Ramezan. “There’s no better environment for students to sharpen their cybersecurity skills in than this, and in addition, they’re getting to work alongside the best of the best.” 

Ramezan was instrumental in bringing Locked Shields to Morgantown, as was General James Hoyer, WVU’s vice president for economic innovation. WVU’s participation in this year’s event significantly elevates its profile as a proving ground for the United States’ future cybersecurity professionals. 

“WVU brings together a lot of different disciplines – not just management information systems and computer science, but also law and communications,” said General Hoyer. “Our students and faculty are exceptionally talented, so this puts us right on the forefront of protecting the nation and our allies.” 


AM 5/12/24

CONTACT: Andrew Marvin
Multimedia Specialist
John Chambers College of Business and Economics

Chambers College