It’s not every day that a team of stu­dents man­ages a net­work of com­puters while under attack for three days straight by a team of pro­fes­sional hackers.

That’s what Michael Cop­pola, freshman and team cap­tain of Northeastern’s cyber defense team said as he and six other com­puter sci­ence stu­dents put their skills to work against peers from 11 uni­ver­si­ties at the 2011 North­east Regional Col­le­giate Cyber Defense Competition.

The three-​​day annual event is designed to help stu­dents sharpen their skills and boost their knowl­edge about admin­is­tering and pro­tecting a large com­puter network.

As last year’s cham­pions of the National Col­le­giate Cyber Defense Com­pe­ti­tion in Texas, Northeastern’s team and the Col­lege of Com­puter and Infor­ma­tion Sci­ence (CCIS) hosted the event at the EMC Training Center in Franklin, Mass., from March 4 to 6.

Teams were scored based on their ability to detect and respond to out­side threats, main­tain avail­ability of existing ser­vices such as mail servers and web servers, respond to busi­ness requests such as the addi­tion or removal of ser­vices, and bal­ance secu­rity needs against busi­ness needs.

The Rochester Insti­tute of Tech­nology went on to win and will rep­re­sent the region at the National Cyber Defense Com­pe­ti­tion April 8 to 10.

Themis Papa­george, director of Northeastern’s grad­uate pro­gram in infor­ma­tion assur­ance, said the event was the largest to date, and that Northeastern’s team com­peted well. “They demon­strated knowl­edge, skill and pro­fes­sion­alism throughout the com­pe­ti­tion,” he said.

North­eastern has had a good run,” said Kevin Amorin, the team’s coach and a lec­turer in CCIS. “For two years in a row, we were this region’s cham­pion. We were essen­tially a whole new team this year, but there was a good group dynamic.”

The team started preparing for the event in Jan­uary, meeting reg­u­larly and vol­un­teering any­where from five to 10 hours a week, and cov­ering a year’s worth of course mate­rial in about nine weeks.

This year we learned a lot in a short time,” said Amorin. “We have a very bright future.”

Team cap­tain Cop­pola, who has received aca­d­emic recog­ni­tion and pro­fes­sional acco­lades from the likes of Google for his work in cyber secu­rity, added, “We learned about the value of real-​​world expe­ri­ence and will be pre­pared with more ideas for next year.”