A team of undergraduate students from the cybersecurity club in UCI’s Department of Computer Science is moving on to the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition following their recent first-place finish in the Western Regionals against several formidable opponents. Only the winners out of the nine regionals across the nation can directly advance to the national competition.
The CCDC pits teams representing top academic institutions against one another to assess students’ depth of knowledge and competency in protecting corporate information systems.
“This is an historic moment, as we have never made it this far in the CCDC,” said the team’s faculty advisor Qi Alfred Chen, UCI assistant professor of computer science. “We came in third place in 2019 and 2020, losing to strong rivals such as Stanford University, but this year we were able to beat all of our opponents. Every step we take from this point on will be a new achievement for UCI.”
Competitions are typically based on a scenario in which teams assume administrative duties for a network comprised of about 50 users and seven to 10 servers to handle internet traffic, websites, email and e-commerce functions. Teams respond to outside threats while trying to maintain services, continually balancing security against business needs.
“Everyone in the cybersecurity ecosystem understands that a lack of trained and tested cybersecurity professionals continues to present one of the most significant risks to our national and economic security,” said Bryan Cunningham, executive director of UCI’s Cybersecurity Policy and Research Institute, which sponsors UCI’s team. “Formal education is important, but real-world experience is highly valued in the cyber job market, and these competitions present just the sort of pressure-cooker environment cybersecurity professionals will face. These battle-tested students will be highly employable, and winning doesn’t hurt, either.”
Cyber@UCI team members are now preparing for the national competition which takes place April 23-25. The club also offers cybersecurity workshops, sponsors Capture the Flag competitions and provides opportunities for members to connect with cybersecurity professionals. “We are actively building a community of enthusiasts in hacking and cybersecurity,” said Chen, “Interested students are encouraged to join to together make more history happen in UCI cybersecurity.”