Cal Poly Pomona hosts cyber attack competition

A man looks at an advertisement on his laptop computer in Los Angeles on November 30, 2009. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Computer hackers are ready to throw every kind of virus and malicious software at business IT departments this weekend. It’s part of a simulation for a university competition meant to prepare students for the very real and ugly world of cyber protection.

Cal Poly Pomona hosts the Western Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition through Sunday. The blue teams, made up of college students, are in charge of running a fictitious business while under attack from red teams of hackers.

Dan Manson, who teaches about computer information systems at Cal Poly Pomona, says the red team includes a cyber crimes prosecutor from the L.A. County District Attorney’s office.

"They can be going in and looking for personal information, credit card information, they can be to gain password access into the various systems and disrupt the systems. The goal of the red team is to create havoc," Manson said.

Winners of this weekend’s cyber attack competition proceed to a national contest in Texas sponsored by the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Last year, the cost of cyber crime doubled from the previous year to $500 million. Observers say the United States isn’t doing enough to cultivate top computer security experts. That’s generated a healthy market for these skills. On average, college graduates with expertise in computer security land jobs that pull in $60,000 a year, for starters.