UCF’s Collegiate Cyber Defense Team on Saturday won the Department of Energy’s CyberForce National Competition that challenges teams across the country to build a robust corporate network that can withstand attacks to steal data, deface websites or wipe out critical systems.

The competition drew bids from 97 schools to participate and UCF was one of 66 teams selected. Participating teams spent several weeks designing and building a corporate network that, during the on-site competition, was challenged by professionals attempting to hack the network. UCF’s design was found to be the least susceptible to attacks.

“The energy infrastructure we depend upon as a nation is under the constant threat of cyberattacks,” says U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in a news release. “As the sector-specific agency for cybersecurity in the energy sector, guarding against those threats is my highest priority, and this competition is becoming a key element in developing our next generation of cyber warriors.”

UCF’s team is comprised of six College of Engineering and Computer Science students: digital forensics graduate student Austin Sturm ’18; computer science major Andrew Hughes; information technology majors Matthew St. Hubin, Michael Roberts and Martin Roberts; and computer engineering major David Maria. Their coach is Tom Nedorost, associate instructor of computer science.

The team’s success is built on three factors: UCF’s size, the team members’ skills and practice.

Nedorost said the team’s success is built on three factors: UCF’s size, the team members’ skills and practice.

With more than 12,000 students in the college and more than 350 members in the Collegiate Cyber Defense Club, the student club also known as Hack@UCF, he said he has a lot of talent to choose from to represent UCF.

“I review each competition to ascertain what specific skill sets would be beneficial and then assemble a team comprised of a diverse set of skills needed for each competition,” Nedorost says. “Our team members meet regularly to practice and hone their unique skill sets.”

In last weekend’s competition, teams participated at seven national labs around the nation. UCF competed at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois, and scored the most overall points from all the labs. UCF topped the other regional winners: Kansas State University, University of Maryland, Brigham Young University, University of California at Davis, University of South Alabama, Oregon State University, and Southern Methodist University.

The date for next year’s CyberForce competition will be Nov. 15-16, and Nedorost said UCF’s team is already reviewing their results from this year’s competition to strategize for next year’s event. Fortunately, five of the six team members plan to return to UCF next fall to compete. Senior St. Hubin will graduate in May and join Amazon in Seattle.

UCF was named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security in 2016. UCF’s Collegiate Cyber Defense Team consistently competes at a national level, including in the Raytheon National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions where UCF won back-to-back in 2014, 2015 and 2016.