Cyber Defense. Seems like something we only see in the movies or hear on the news. Students at the University of Northern Iowa are honing their skills to combat real-life cyber attacks. The UNI’s Cyber Defense Team came in 2nd place in the 2016 Argonne National Lab’s National Cyber Defense Competition near Chicago, Illinois. Sheriff Jorkeh, a first generation college student, is a part of this successful team.
Sheriff is majoring Computer Science with an emphasis in Systems, which includes Networking and Systems Administration. This is a unique program to UNI because it combines computer science and networking assistance. It is hands on and gives students the opportunity to dive deeper into the fundamentals of computer systems. Students who graduate with this degree can be network analysts or network engineers.
Originally from Liberia, Sheriff came to the United States to live in 2012. He is the first member of his family to go to college. He lives in Cedar Falls with his wife and two children, 4 and 2, while he attends UNI.
Sheriff started in the computer business when a training opportunity was presented to him after high school. He completed training in computer service and repair and then started working in a friend’s business. He also helped teach employees Microsoft Suite, Powerpoint, and Publisher. Sheriff has been on the UNI campus since January of 2016 and so far his experience has been great. He is currently the president of the Cedar Valley Linux User Group and a member of TRIO, Computer Club, and UNI’s Cyber Defense Team. He also works at Western Home as a resident assistant.
As president of the Cedar Valley Linux User Group, Sheriff organizes meetings and looks for speakers or speaks himself on various Linux topics. He assists in the organization of events on and off campus where the group sets up gaming on the Linux system just to have fun. He would like to see the campus Linux group get more involved in the community and connect with Linux users off campus.
UNI’s Cyber Defense Team’s purpose is to learn and practice responding to cyber-attacks. During the competition at Argonne National Labs, the team was given a hypothetical situation of a simulated real-world cyber-attack scenario. The team was given vulnerable system servers and challenged to patch them up and make them secure. Then, during the day of the competition, professionals attack! The team has to maintain their system servers while trying to keep or get the hackers out. All of this has to be done without causing user problems. It takes experience and skill to pose as a cyber attacker. Dr. Paul Gray, a UNI professor as well as Sheriff’s advisor and mentor, is one of the professionals who has been an attacker for the competition.
With plans to graduate in December of 2018, Sheriff plans to make the most of his time at UNI and continue to enjoy his college experience. He takes classes that build on previous classes, such as Data Structures. He has taken classes such as Intermediate Computing using JAVA and Python programming languages as well as his favorite class to date, Networking. After graduation, Sheriff is off to the real world and with a degree in computer science. His degree will allow him to work anywhere in any industry.