Founded in 1829, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is a private university that emphasizes career education and experiential learning. In keeping with this tradition, RIT recently sponsored the National Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition, which gives teams of college students the chance to test their computing and cybersecurity skills in a mock environment.
The goal? To arm students with the skills to help potential employers understand their businesses’ vulnerabilities. It’s about more than just keeping hackers out—it’s about understanding how they get in. With so many job opportunities in cybersecurity, the competition lets students experience first-hand what it’s like to work in the field.
RIT invited schools from around the U.S. to apply what they learned in school in an environment simulating real-life as closely as possible. As hosts, that included giving teams access to technology from VMware, including several hundred VMware Horizon virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) clients, NSX, VSAN, and vRealize Suite Enterprise—specifically, vRealize Automation, vRealize Operations, and vRealize Log Insight.
“The students logged into Horizon VDI, and we used NSX to isolate their testing activity from our campus infrastructure,” explains Chris Butler, senior systems administrator at RIT. “We used VSAN to host everything, and supported 24 terabytes of virtual machines during the competition on SSD and VSAN nodes.”
The competition was driven by an advisory board composed of RIT alumni working in the security industry, corporate sponsors, and faculty. The advisory board leveraged vRealize Automation to blueprint and clone on-demand the on-campus portion of the competition. Students accessed Kali Linux consoles through vRealize Automation for launching security attacks. vRealize Operations gave the advisory board insight into the environment to help manage load and performance, while vRealize Log Insight captured events from NSX as well as Windows activity for analysis.
These VMware technologies are already the cornerstone of RIT’s IT services. RIT can have as many as 800 VMs deployed for academic purposes, and up to 1,200 VMs in production. RIT recently built a private academic cloud and evolved to an IT-as-a-service model with a self-service catalog to support cross-disciplinary learning. This included a portfolio of mobile solutions. RIT uses VMware vRealize Suite Enterprise as its underlying cloud management platform.
VMware vRealize Automation helps accelerate resource provisioning, while vRealize Operations gives RIT greater insight into its environment, helping the university optimize capacity planning and performance management. It has also reduced and in some cases, eliminated, the need for non-IT business groups to build and invest in their own IT infrastructure.
“With VMware, we are able to stay ahead of demands, giving us greater organizational agility and an excellent return on investment,” says Butler.
And that’s just another one of the many benefits of having RIT host the competition.
“We want to deliver exceptional experiences for our own students, as well as those we host during the event,” says Butler. “With a VMware foundation, we can offer students unique learning opportunities using today’s best technologies.”
The competition started as a local program and has since expanded nationally. In 2017, international students will also be able to test their proficiency against their peers at life-like cyber security scenarios. VMware provides the power and flexibility to stand up the environments quickly and consistently for this rapidly expanding, highly-visible program.
Learn more about the National Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition, and watch local coverage of the annual event.
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