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Winning has its privileges. After UMUC's Cyber Padawans swept the board to a Global CyberLympics championship in September and the collegiate and professional division championships at the Maryland Cyber Challenge in October, the Department of Homeland Security invited members of the team, along with faculty and administrators, to an exclusive tour of the National Infrastructure Coordinating Center (NICC) and the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC).

The NCCIC is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week cyber situational awareness, incident response, and management center that—according to its website—serves as a "national nexus of cyber and communications integration for the federal government, intelligence community, and law enforcement."

The NICC is also staffed 24/7 and is the coordination and information sharing operations center that monitors the nation's critical infrastructure (energy utilities, chemical facilities, transportation systems, computer networks, etc.).

Renee Forney, executive director of DHS's CyberSkills Management Support Initiative, hosted the group and provided an informational briefing at DHS facilities in Arlington, Virginia, on March 19.

"This is one of the benefits that comes with being world champions—and also with UMUC's location in Maryland, the epicenter of the cybersecurity industry," said Jeff Tjiputra, chair of the undergraduate cybersecurity program and coach of the Padawans.

The interagency NCCIC uses state-of-the-art technology to monitor the country's infrastructure and coordinate the nation's response to cyberattacks targeting either government or private-sector entities. Members of the UMUC tour group were able to observe the center in action and ask detailed questions about operations and the resources used to monitor and respond to cyber incidents.

The NICC tour was conducted by Ray Hudson, a senior watch officer at the center who recently earned his MS in cybersecurity policy at UMUC.