UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA CONTINUES REIGN AS COLLEGE CYBER CHAMPS
(Originally posted on Raytheon.com)
Although the University of Central Florida kept its strategy under wraps before the championship, it was no surprise when it repeated in winning the nation's most prestigious collegiate data defense competition. With five of its eight team members returning from last year’s winning squad, the UCF Knights were the odds-on favorite.
Members of the "Blue Team" from the University of Central Florida were crowned champions for the second year in a row at the 2015 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, held in partnership with Raytheon.
The win at the finals in San Antonio, Texas earned them more than bragging rights: Raytheon offered an internship to each student on the team and will bring them to Washington D.C. later this summer to tour some of the nation’s top research and national security cyber sites.
After winning last year’s championship, the team members didn’t spend the flight home to Orlando celebrating, said coach Tom Nedorost; instead, they compared notes on how not to make the same mistakes in this year’s competition.
“They became a very tight-knit. cohesive group, some taking the same courses together and others even rooming together,” Nedorost said. “When you get that close, you quickly learn your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses. During this year's championship, they were finishing each other's sentences. Sometimes they didn't even have to speak to act, like they were reading each other's minds."
According to Nedorost, practice made perfect, calling it one of the keys to their victory. The team trained three days a week, four hours at a time, during the entire spring semester. While each of the eight students specialized in different cyber disciplines, the team studied each other's specialties so they could back each other up in a crisis.
UCF beat the second-place Bears of the University of California, Berkeley, and bested the third-place Tigers of the Rochester Institute of Technology, New York.
About 200 teams from universities and colleges across the United States competed in ten regional events to determine who would go to the April 24-26 finals in San Antonio.
The 10 regional champions were:
- University of Alaska Fairbanks, At Large Regional CCDC Winner
- University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Mid-Atlantic Regional Winner
- DePaul University, Mid-West Regional Winner
- University of Nebraska at Kearney, North Central Regional Winner
- Rochester Institute of Technology, Northeast Regional Winner
- ITT Tech Boise, Pacific Rim Regional Winner
- Southern Utah University, Rocky Mountain Regional Winner
- University of Central Florida, Southeast Regional Winner
- University of Texas at San Antonio, Southwest Regional Winner
- University of California, Berkeley, Western Regional CCDC Winner
During the finals, each team acted as the information technology department for a small business, such as an online pharmacy, retailer or other net-dependent company. They attempted to keep their businesses running while fending off cyber-attacks from a team of 20 penetration professionals and white hat hackers — the so-called "red team."
During this year's scenario, teams simulated operating an electric utility company while the "Red Team" tried to hack into their network.
"We had to keep the network secure while taking customer complaints about power outages," Nedorost said. "I found the scenario extremely realistic, except we crammed about a month's worth of IT work into 48 hours. In the end, I am extremely proud of our team. We have five students graduating this year who will move on to very successful careers.
"I think we'll spend this year's flight home celebrating," Nedorost added. "We won't start planning for the 2016 competition until next week."
The competition is in its 10th year, and Raytheon has signed on as a sponsor through at least 2016. The sponsorship is a big win for both the competition and the Waltham, Mass.-based defense company. Raytheon counts cyber defense as a core capability and has become an industry leader in information assurance.
“The students that compete at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition are the next wave of cyber experts...these are people who will guard our critical cyber infrastructure against sophisticated threats,” said Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services.
“Through our partnership with NCCDC, Raytheon is not only providing financial support, volunteers, and experts, but also technology to create a realistic experience," Wajsgras said. "Through our efforts, and those of the other sponsors, we are helping to develop the cyber security workforce of the future.”