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Cyber security students take top honours in global tournament

Students from TAFE Queensland demonstrated their cyber security prowess recently by placing in the top ranks in a highly competitive international tournament.

Under the team name Polykek, four Certificate IV in Cyber Security (22603VIC) students — Jordan Swebeck, Matthew Wong, Christopher White, and Emmanuel Michaelides — participated in the Cyberbit ICL Collegiate Cup Tournament, finishing first in Australia and third in the world out of 86 teams and 20 finalists.

"We started with a goal of getting through the first round. Five weeks later, we can't believe we're on the podium - four students just starting their second term of cyber security studies," said Emmanuel.

“It was five intensive weeks of training, live-fire simulations, labs and countless learning modules before the team came together to take on a mammoth final simulation.”

"The final live-fire was a multi-stage attack on a large-company network. There were multiple firewalls, a compromised SIEM server, an EDR and multiple compromised endpoints," explained Emmanuel.

"The team identified the initial point of compromise, traced malicious artefacts, analysed CLI and python code, mapped the attack and developed a full attack chain, troubleshot and repaired the SIEM, broke the command and control, remediated the threats and reconfigured network security to prevent another attack."

Director of Faculty, Creative Arts and Digital Design, Jackie French, said the experience was valuable in demonstrating how TAFE Queensland's training meets industry standards while producing a pipeline of talented graduates ready to join the frontlines of cyber warfare.

"We're not necessarily competing against other training organisations; we're ensuring that the education we provide our students will enable them to graduate and get a job in this field," Ms French said.

“We pride ourselves on our industry connections, world-class training facilities and state-of-the-art equipment. All of which contributed to the Polykek team’s success with Jon Robertson, Managing Director, Tarian Cyber, giving the students a training session using Cyberbit’s platform, exposing them to live-fire cyber-attack sessions on our LEGO City simulation facility.”

"For the students to perform so well in an international competition is a huge lift in their confidence and a testament to the education they receive at TAFE Queensland."

Cyberbit provides a comprehensive training and simulation platform for preparing cyber security professionals to respond to advanced cyber threats. They provide hands-on experience by simulating real-world cyber-attacks in a safe and controlled environment.

Using these platforms, the cyber security students competed in live-fire challenges that mirror the scenarios they will face on the job in a hyper-realistic cyber range, allowing them to show their cyber defender skills.

Emmanuel said the team's chemistry and technical skills were crucial to success, with their collaborative efforts lifting them to new levels in the competition.

“Using the Cyberbit platform, the team developed strengths in Linux, web operations, IR coordination, SIEM and endpoint analysis, Initial response and general security, EDR operations, networks and Windows forensics, so it was a well-rounded team with a wealth of knowledge. And we didn’t make a final decision until everyone had a chance to analyse it,” he said.

"Our team had strengths in Linux, web and code specialist, IR coordinator, SIEM and endpoint analysis, initial response and security generalist, EDR, networks and Windows forensics, so had a well-rounded knowledge and we didn't make a decision until everyone had a chance to analyse it," he said.

"The Cyberbit ICL Collegiate Cup provided an invaluable learning experience, both in cyber security skills and learning how to function as a security operations centre team under the guidance of industry professionals."

"We came to TAFE Queensland to study cyber security with no background experience, and for us to go from complete amateurs to competing in an international competition and doing as well as we did speaks to the quality of our teachers who educate us," concluded Emmanuel.