A team of students from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) finished third at New York University’s Embedded Security Challenge.
Held Nov. 9 to 11, the event is the largest and longest-running hardware security competition, featuring competitors from colleges and universities across the globe. It is an educational, research-oriented tournament aimed at hacking into the hardware of embedded systems.
Timothy Harry ‘18, Ethan Stewart ’18 and Joshua Kuun ’18, all students in UNH’s department of electrical and computer engineering, were part of the team that took the bronze prize in a field that featured multiple teams with master’s and doctoral students.
Stewart says the team learned a lot about defense mechanisms currently in use by industry, and he credits his team’s success to long hours of preparation.
“I think one of the things that set us apart was how well we knew our work,” says Stewart. “This directly helped us in comparison to some other teams that did similar work but did not spend as much time with the ins and outs of their submission.”
Zhiming Zhang, a second-year master’s student who was part of the third place team a year ago, was also part of the team this year during the qualifying round of the competition.
The event was won by a team from the University of Texas. The third-place UNH finish marks the third straight year a Wildcats team has placed third.
Qiaoyan Yu, assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering and the team’s advisor, says the team was more independent in its work with less technical guidance provided than in previous years.
“This is a big achievement,” says Yu. “I am so proud of seeing that we are the only team that is among the top three teams in the consecutive three years.”
The UNH team was one of 12 teams from multiple nations selected for the final round. They qualified for the finals with a report that documented attacks on the programmable logic controller and a countermeasure implementation that included attack detection, isolation and mitigation tactics. The final round required an eight-page report, poster presentation and demonstration of attacks and countermeasures before judges and competition organizers.