By Shane Klestinski, Associate Editor

 

The University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Collegiate Cyber Defense Team won first place in this year’s National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC) to bring back their sixth “Alamo Cup” trophy.

 

The top 10 teams gathered to compete in San Antonio, Texas, from April 25 to April 27, after advancing from 198 schools that represented over 2100 competitors at previous, regional contests. The Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition is the largest and oldest college-level cyber contest in the country, and its national round has been informally referred to as the “Super Bowl of cyber competitions.”

 

Teams had to address scenarios in a simulated environment to maintain and operate an HR firm’s cyber infrastructure, while simultaneously defending against “Red Team” hackers to ensure proper execution of normal business operations and customer care tasks.

 

“The scenario we developed for this elite group of students is very realistic,” said Dwayne Williams, director of the NCCDC and associate director at the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security. “The primary challenge this year [was] securing large amounts of personally identifiable information across different industries and states, but also dealing with a company acquisition while being targeted by bad actors. These unique challenges and hands-on experiences help each of these teams prepare for the real-world scenarios they will face after graduation.”

 

Participating in contests like NCCDC yields more benefits than bragging rights and trophies. The skills, experience and networking contacts students develop during competitions help make them valuable cybersecurity professionals who have no shortage of attractive job opportunities after graduation. According to Tom Nedorost, UCF computer science professor and team coach, students who get involved in such competitions are commonly hired into mid-level positions with base salaries in the low six-figure range and generous signing and relocation bonuses.

 

“We send the best of our best to this competition,” Nedorost said. “Many companies sign up to host these competitions so that they can pick top talent.”

 

UCF’s cyber defense team was established in 2013. Starting in 2014, it has now taken the NCCDC national title six times and placed as runner-up three times. Due to its performance in the NCCDC and various other contests over the years, the team has earned a reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the world of cyber defense competition.

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