What does the University of Central Florida’s star cyberdefense team have in common with the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls? They’ve all racked up three consecutive national championships.
The student Collegiate Cyber Defense Club @ UCF locked up an unprecedented three-peat victory on Sunday at the 2016 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in San Antonio.
“It was surprising and fantastic,” team captain Jonathan Lundstrom said of the moment the students learned they won. “One of the members checked his pulse and it was over 100. The anticipation was extreme.”
The competition victory comes on the heels of UCF being named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education just last week by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. It’s an honor that recognizes the strength of the university’s cyberdefense programs, curriculum, faculty and students.
More than 180 college and university teams vied for the cyberdefense championship. The UCF club’s competition team already had won the Southeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, its fourth straight win of that regional competition, to earn a spot in the national contest.
At the three-day national competition, the UCF team beat nine other teams – each of them the best from their region of the country – to earn the victory. UCF has dominated the field for the past three years. The team brings home the competition’s Alamo Cup.
At the national competition, teams operated and managed the network of a fictitious aerospace defense contractor. They use cutting-edge cybersecurity tools and their own finely honed cyberskills to monitor network activity and fend off attacks from hackers trying to gain access to blueprints and other information stored on company servers.
The competition, sponsored by Raytheon, the Department of Homeland Security, Accenture, Walmart and other major companies and government agencies, is modeled after real-world scenarios. Its goal is to prepare students to strengthen the nation’s network infrastructure in a time of relentless attacks by hackers.
“Everyone recognizes we need to find and train more cyberprofessionals. Competitions absolutely help to meet that need,” competition director Dwayne Williams said. “Across the nation, the competition gets harder and teams get better each year.”
UCF’s team is made up of Lundstrom, Carolyn Chenicek, Kevin Colley, Alexander Davis, Matthew DeGraffenreid, Jonathan Haas, Heather Lawrence, David Maria, Edward Mojica, Michael Rossi, Matthew St. Hubin and Neil Stagner.
Hack@UCF, whose faculty advisor is Thomas Nedorost, has more than 200 members, most of whom are majoring in computer science or computer engineering in the College of Engineering & Computer Science. The dozen on the competition team are required to maintain full-time student status. In addition to school and work – they all have jobs – they train together two to three times a week. Including time they put in at home, it amounts to about 20 hours a week of practice.
“It definitely requires a lot of dedication,” Lundstrom said.
Brigham Young University placed second, and DePaul University placed third.
The win comes with more than just bragging rights. There are typically internships and job offers from competition partner Raytheon. The company also will host the winning team in Washington, D.C., over the summer for tours of top research and cybersecurity sites. The past two years, team members also had private tours of the White House.