Maryland Cyber Challenge tests a new generation of cyber warriors

Emily Kimball Pope —  October 10, 2013
Maryland Cyber Challenge

The UMUC Pro Team of University of Maryland University College won first place during the Maryland Cyber Challenge.

Who will defend government agencies and businesses from a growing number of online threats? Whether the attacker is a hacker next door or a foreign government operative, a new generation of cyber warriors is honing their skills in Maryland.

Students and professionals across the state, competed this week in the Maryland Cyber Challenge, in conjunction with CyberMaryland 2013, Oct. 8-9 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Competing in a “capture the flag” style format, players confronted vulnerability mitigation, computer forensics and cyber defense.

Winning teams were chosen from among high school, collegiate and professional categories, including:

High School Collegiate Professional
First Place DonsCSC of Loyola Blakefield UMUC Cyberteam 2 of University of Maryland University College  UMUC Pro Team of University of Maryland University College
Second Place Muffin Raiders of Marshall Academy UMBC Cyberdogs 1 of University of Maryland Baltimore County Deadbeef (undisclosed team member affiliation)

The $84,000 in cash prizes were distributed by the National Security Agency through the UMBC Foundation. Leidos and UMBC were the organizers of the Maryland Cyber Challenge.

Rick Gertz, CEO of Baltimore-based LifeJourney, which offers online STEM-related career simulation, spoke to contestants about desperate need for highly trained cybersecurity workers. “The buzz and the energy over the last couple of days was amazing. You all make up Generation C, which is the cyber generation, on which the future of our country rests,” he said.

For William Thomas of the UMBC Cyberdogs 1 team, the competition strengthened his resolve to pursue a career in cybersecurity after he graduates this December. “We grew a lot as a team, practicing for the qualifiers and practicing for the finals. I have a better idea now of what I want to go into, probably reverse engineering or malware analysis, maybe exploitation development,” Thomas said.

While still a student, Matthew Matchen of UMUC Cyberteam 2 is already working full-time in network security. The competition, however, caused him to broaden his perspective and master several new cybersecurity techniques.

“The company I work for, we do network security, with proxies and firewalls and stuff like that, but it doesn’t really give you the perspective of how a hacker looks at things from the outside to try to find a way in,” he said. “Through these competitions, it makes me a better defender because I understand how things look from the outside.”

Manish Patel was team leader of the UMUC Pro Team. He currently teaches Windows and other CMIT classes at the University of Maryland University College. He said the long hours devoted to preparing for competition paid off in ways beyond the cash prizes.

“It keeps your skills sharp and just being here helps you make business connections. This isn’t necessarily what we’re doing on a daily basis, so these are new skills that we are learning also. I’m a teacher, so I can go back and share these skills with my students,” he said.

Maryland Cyber Challenge

UMUC Cyberteam 2 of University of Maryland University College won first place in the Maryland Cyber Challenge.

Maryland Cyber Challenge

UMBC Cyberdogs 1 of the University of Maryland Baltimore County won second place in the Maryland Cyber Challenge.

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