LSU Business Student Earns Third Place in National Cyber Threat Competition

March 06, 2024

Photo of the team including Daniel Lichowid Jr holding a large check in front of a sign that reads third place

LSU business student Daniel Lichowid Jr (third from left) poses with teammates and Deloitte professionals after earning third place in a national cybersecurity competition.

– Photo provided by Deloitte.

BATON ROUGE - LSU Information Systems and Decision Sciences (ISDS) major Daniel Lichowid Jr. placed third in the 2024 Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory Cyber Threat Competition, held at Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas from Feb. 15-17. Out of approximately 1,500 students, Lichowid was one of 60 individuals to move onto the final round, cementing himself in the top 5% of all participants.

The Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory Cyber Threat Competition provides a real-world application opportunity for college students across the nation. Participants collaborate with students from various universities and Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory professionals to leverage their consulting and business skills to assist clients in simulated cyber challenges.

This fall, Lichowid, a Baton Rouge native, showed his prowess when passing the first round of the competition, where he completed an online questionnaire and a "capture the flag" (CTF) technical challenge. Lichowid was scored against peers from 30 different schools based on his number of correct responses, the difficulty rating of the questions he answered, and the speed at which he responded. For the CTF portion, he worked through different challenges to acquire a 'flag,' which he would submit for points. 

"With the first part being a questionnaire, it was fairly easy," Lichowid said. "I was ready for it because many questions covered things I knew from my cybersecurity classes, so they didn't really challenge me." 

Alternatively, the CTF challenge was difficult for Lichowid, who found himself near the bottom of the rankings at the beginning of the 10-part test. However, he persisted through each challenge, acquired flags, and even completed the final and most difficult challenge, worth 400 points. This propelled him into the third position on the leaderboard, positioning him to be selected for the second and final round of the competition. 

For the final round, Deloitte divided the 60 competitors into teams, ensuring each group had a mix of academic majors, skills, and university representation. Teams completed an incident response simulation where they had to solve a cyber-related business case and present the solution to a panel of Deloitte Risk & Financial Advisory Cyber Risk Services leaders. 

Tasked with a scenario where a hotel experienced a cyber attack and a data breach, Lichowid and his team, which included majors from other business disciplines, had to go beyond the technical aspects to address the problem holistically. Lichowid's specific role was to "respond and detect," which most directly dealt with the forensic and technical aspects of the case. Each remaining team member took the lead on cyber strategy, communications, data privacy, or finance. Their final response included strategies for dealing with impacts on the company's customers and constituents using a combination of solutions derived from each category of work. 

"These cases are more of a business case rather than a technical one," said Lichowid. "With cyber threats, a lot goes on behind the scenes in a business sense. These threats can have big impacts on a business, and our response had to encompass all of those aspects."

Lichowid attributes much of his success to the knowledge he gained from his ISDS courses taught by Associate Professor AJ Burns. Lichowid's first cybersecurity class focused heavily on the business side of the industry, which prepared him for the first round's questionnaire. Although the CTF challenge was difficult, Lichowid's current cybersecurity course ISDS 4123 Computer and Networking Security allowed him to sharpen his skills with practice challenges. 

"Dr. Burns' encouragement to work on those challenges helped me prepare and gain an understanding of what to expect," Lichowid said. 

Although Lichowid has a strong understanding of the technology side of cybersecurity, after this experience, he sees himself pursuing a consulting role specializing in the industry's business aspects.  

Lichowid received $500 for his third-place finish. He will graduate in May with his sights set on pursuing analyst and consulting opportunities. 

"Working with talented and motivated students like Daniel is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a professor at LSU," said Burns. "He is among the first students to take our new cybersecurity courses in ISDS, and it is great to see all his hard work rewarded."

These courses were developed as part of a new cyber risk management concentration to be offered starting in fall of 2024.

LSU students Anh Do, a finance and ISDS major, and Olame Muliri, a computer science major from the College of Engineering, also advanced to the second and final round of the competition.