Terra State cybersecurity students place 2nd of all community colleges in the nation

Cybersecurity student working on a task as part of the NSA Codebreaker Challenge.
Cybersecurity student working on a task as part of the NSA Codebreaker Challenge.

Terra State Community College cybersecurity students completed the National Security Agency (NSA) Codebreaker Challenge for the second consecutive year, placing 2nd nationally among community colleges and 28th overall out of 466 colleges and universities.

Thirty-eight students participated in the Challenge that started in August 2021. Students applied their computer skills to cracking passwords, social engineering, complex mathematic computations and reverse engineering software to solve problems in a fictional story.

“Education in Computer Science has many different options that students can choose from for their future. Since 2017, the program has developed into something that challenges students beyond the normal skills that are taught. Their critical thinking and creative skills are challenged with tasks such as the NSA Codebreaker Challenge to create solutions that normally cannot be duplicated until they enter the real world of work. This year’s challenge was just as difficult as the previous and to compete against major universities brings the students a sense of pride and helps build their confidence. Watching the excitement from students going through the challenge has brought me great joy and I look forward to competing again this year,” said Assistant Professor Michael Daigneault.

Terra State’s team finished second place out of all community colleges in the country. The College also outpaced Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brigham Young University, the Ohio State University, Purdue University and Pennsylvania State University.

Johni Eberly, a computer information systems, systems and networking support student, was excited to work hands-on and apply the knowledge she learned from her classes to the Challenge.

“A distinct memory I have while working on the Challenge was when our instructor, Michael Daigneault, hosted an all-day event dedicated to breaking the challenges. Many other students tried helping me without giving the answer away, but I still couldn’t figure it out. So I decided to make onto the third challenge because other students said you can find the answer to challenge two by cracking the third one. I was able to figure out the third challenge at the end, mostly on my own which felt amazing,” said Eberly.