The University of New Hampshire Cyber Security Team finished in fourth place at the Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition held at UNH March 16 – 18.
The Wildcats were one of 10 teams to qualify for the event from an original field of 36 teams. The title was captured by the State University of New York at Buffalo, while Rochester Institute of Technology and Northeastern University rounded out the top three.
After a slow start on day one of the competition, the Wildcats surged into the top half of teams before the event’s closure thanks to a solid defensive effort.
“We had a slow start Friday,” says Harrison Pham ’18, the team’s captain. “However, the team’s morale and communication was high, which helped bring us back up in the standings. Even the judges kept mentioning how helpful our team dynamic was.”
"UNH was the first team to find a hidden surveillance device that was planted as part of the extortion process."
The Wildcats certainly did bounce back. After finishing in 10th place in service scores at the end of the first day, they rebounded to finish fourth in services scores and fourth overall at the end of the second day. They were the first team to find a hidden surveillance device planted as part of the extortion process run by the event organizers.
“We're competent technically, so just experiencing things we wouldn't expect from the hackers was an eye-opener,” says Pham. “Even though it’s a stressful competition, we would gladly do it again.”
Joining Pham on the UNH team were Alex Korzyniowski ‘19, Jimmy Trinh ‘18, Pirro Shtino ‘18, Charles Waters ‘18, Ethan Stewart ’18, Jeremy Plsek ‘18, Riley Bryan ‘20 and Francesco Mikulis-Borsoi ‘20.
Chris Neveu ’12, who served as the Wildcats’ coach for the competition, says he was proud of the team’s performance and perseverance despite early struggles.
“I think the main takeaway is that continuing to work hard at something and not quitting has a payoff,” he says. “The hackers don’t pull any punches, so it is all about how well you can come back from a bad situation.”
Neveu was a member of the 2012 UNH team that finished in second place at the event before he joined the team as a mentor in 2014. With the team’s advisor Ken Graf serving on the event’s organization committee, Neveu led the UNH team for the event. He says the experience helped shape his career and will likely be instrumental in doing the same for many of the current competitors.
“This is a unique event because there are not very many defense-based cybersecurity events,” says Neveu. “The majority of the jobs available in the cybersecurity field are defense jobs, so this event directly shows off skills that all of the sponsors are looking for in their future hires.”