The Cyber Defense Team, a UMBC club focusing on computer and network security, recently competed in and won the 2015 Maryland Cyber Defense Challenge, or MDC3. The competition was held in late Oct. 2015, but because of technical issues the completion of the event was postponed until Feb. 20 this year.
The MDC3, an annual cyber security competition held in Baltimore, is divided into two separate challenges. The first challenge is a cyber defense exercise in which the team has to seek out target machines and gain access to them. The team then has to maintain the function of their machines, as other participants may try to infiltrate and take control of their machine.
The second part is a forensics exercise in which participants receive a hard drive and are required to analyze this drive to find deleted files, decrypt messages and to find hidden messages in images.
Teams face both of the challenges at the same time with a time constraint of six hours.
The semi-finalists of this most recent Cyber Defense Challenge featured teams from about 25 colleges and universities. From these teams, only eight qualified to move on to the finals.
Two teams from the UMBC Cyber Defense Team, Cyberdawgs Team 1 and Cyberdawgs Team 2, participated in the competition and made it into this top eight. Cyberdawgs Team 1, including UMBC students Tyler Campbell, Josh Domangue, Chris Gardner, Anh Ho, Jacob Rust and Julio Valcarcel, managed to finish the competition in first place.
In order to prepare for these events, the team gathers once a week for practice sessions and actively tries to gain more knowledge of computer and network security. Ho, vice president of the Cyber Defense Team and junior computer science major, said, “we hold club meetings every Wednesday night in ITE 231 at 7:10 p.m. this spring. These meetings are held to promote optimal security practices that should be used as well as to expose people to new technologies. Outside of this, we are constantly looking to expand our own knowledge base and learn what is necessary for the success of the team.”
The Cyber Defense Team was started several years ago when Charles Nicholas, computer science and electrical engineering professor and faculty advisor for the club, was approached by a student asking if one could be created. Nicholas said, “I talked to him for a while and I realized this was the kind of thing that we should be doing here.”
Nicholas funded the team’s start up fees using the Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering’s discretionary funds. The group then applied for SGA status and was officially recognized as a UMBC club, meaning that they now had access to SGA funds for further club development.
The Cyber Defense Team currently participates in a variety of competitions throughout the year including the National Cyber League, the Cyber Security Awareness Week Capture the Flag and the Booz Allen Hamilton Kaizen Capture The Flag.
The next competition the team will face is the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.
Ho commented on this next competition, “last year, we took first place in our Mid-Atlantic region of 30 plus schools. We then went on to make our first appearance in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in San Antonio, Texas. We took fourth place nationally and are aiming to take the championship this year.”