UCF’s Collegiate Cybersecurity Competition Team heads into the upcoming National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition after beating eight other teams last weekend to win the regional title and advance.

The team hopes to regain the national title after having won the championship three consecutive years (2014, 2015, 2016) and finishing as runner-up the past three years (2018, 2019, 2020).

In a tune-up competition two weeks ago, UCF finished second at the Maryland Cyber Challenge hosted by the University of Maryland Global Campus.

The April 23-25 national competition, which is the highest visibility competition for the team each year, had been scheduled to be held in San Antonio, Texas, but the pandemic forced the event to go virtual.

“The pandemic has severely impacted cyber competitions this academic year,” says Tom Nedorost ’02MS, the team’s coach and faculty advisor for the student cybersecurity club, Hack@UCF. “Going into this academic year, I knew six of my eight returning team members would graduate this year. Recruiting talented new students last August was a tremendous challenge considering our campus was locked down.”

Training has been difficult this year since most of it has been conducted remotely.

Training has also been difficult this year since most of it has been conducted remotely, he says. Teams typically compete from one location, but this year in the virtual competitions, team members had to learn to communicate effectively with each other while competing from home and simultaneously working on multiple tasks to detect and defend computer networks from outside threats.

“This led to rule changes which made this year’s competition even more challenging,” Nedorost says.

The eight team members headed to the national competition are: Michael Roberts ’19, a graduate student and team captain from Winter Springs, Florida, who has been on the team five years; twin brother Martin Roberts ’20, a graduate student from Winter Springs; Alexander Cote, co-captain from Monroe, Michigan; Michael Troisi from St. Cloud, Florida; Nelson Torres from Orlando; Kai Garia from Winter Springs; Aiden Durand from Charleston, South Carolina; and Christopher Fischer from Orlando.

“The team members and I are anxiously looking forward to the time where we’ll be able to compete on location with other schools,” Nedorost says. “I expect UCF will continue to have a highly competitive cyber team well into the future.”