Leaders of the Hack: UC Cyber Defense Team Advances to Regionals

Leaders of the Hack: UC Cyber Defense Team Advances to Regionals

Listening to practice session of UC’s Cyber/Computer Science NECCDC team is like diving into a bowl of alphabet soup. You hear letters you recognize, but they are all jumbled up into some strange language that must mean something to someone. As they speak this foreign language of computer code, you realize that what they do is not only beneficial but vital to the ways we communicate, work, study, shop and entertain ourselves on our computers, tablets and mobile devices. Yes, this is really important stuff.

On their very first attempt, a team of UC cybersecurity and computer science students – Nick Gilberti ’16, Sean Drzewiecki ‘17, Andrew Wiegand ’17, Jonathan Wells ‘17, Matthew Latus ‘17, Tristan Martin ‘20 and Chris Bacchi ’17 -- has qualified for the North East Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. Coming in, team members said, as the “underdog,” they beat out the likes of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Pace University, Alfred State College, SUNY Albany and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

“We’re competing against the cream of the crop,” said adviser, coach and computer science professor Ronny Bull. “We’re producing students that can compete on a level with these national leaders in cybersecurity and computer science education,” Bull said.

The team will square off against the likes of Harvard, Northeastern, Syracuse University and RIT. Once again, members say, they will be coming in as the underdog.

Team captain Gilberti said that they are more comfortable after the qualifier competition, because now they know what to expect.

“They give us a scenario like we are a brand new IT team walking into a business or government agency facing a host of problems that all need to be handled at once,” Gilberti said, “without compromising the security of the network, and allowing business to be conducted as usual. It can be pretty challenging.”

The team started as a group of classmates and friends, said Wiegand, with similar interests. They have since added a new member, Monica Johnson ‘18, and two alternates, Joseph Yagey ’18 and Taylor Koivuluoma ’20, for the next phase of competition.

The regionals will be held at Rochester Institute of Technology March 17-19. Only one team will advance to the national finals.

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