The Charger Blog

University of New Haven Excels in Cybersecurity Competition

A team of students recently captured third place in the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition’s New England regional contest. The event, which took place virtually, was hosted by the University’s Connecticut Institute of Technology and included several of the leading cybersecurity programs in the country.

December 16, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image of zoom call announcing New Haven got third place.
The University of New Haven captured third place in the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition’s New England regional contest.

Samuel Zurowski ’21 and his classmates recently accessed the network of a power grid company, searching for and documenting the vulnerabilities they found while testing the network’s security. They were able to serve as cybersecurity consultants, of sorts, identifying many technical issues within the network.

Their experience was part of their participation in the New England regional competition of the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC), which enables top cybersecurity students to gain real-life experience. Students have a limited amount of time to assess mock networks, uncover vulnerabilities, determine the business impacts of their findings, and write a report formatted as if it would be presented to an executive. Zurowski describes the experience as “extremely realistic.”

“The best part is when we get to attack the environment to find vulnerabilities,” said Zurowski, a computer science major and the team captain. “During the first hour you can feel adrenaline rushing through you because you want to find as much as possible, and it is the most exciting part. Working as a team and using each members’ strengths to be successful is the most important part.”

‘We are very proud’

CPTC annually attracts the top cybersecurity students from around the world. The New England regional competition, which the University of New Haven’s Connecticut Institute of Technology hosted virtually, brought together teams from several schools in nearby states, including the United States Military Academy at West Point and Rochester Institute of Technology. The University of New Haven also hosted the regional competition on campus last year.

“The University captured third place in the competition, a finish that Andrew Mahr ’22 was very proud of.

“This was a great achievement for the students who competed on the team this year,” he said. “This was a nod to the skillset and hard work of all of the team members. As I am a part of the hacking club, I was very proud to watch and support the team and my friends as they prepared.”

Mahr helped the University get ready to host the competition, updating and designing the event website and helping monitor the Zoom breakout rooms that each team used during the competition. He was one of several students who worked closely with Liberty Page '91 M.S., a lecturer in the University’s electrical & computer engineering and computer science departments, to ensure the competition went seamlessly.

“The field was very competitive at CPTC New England, as it included several well-known powerhouse teams,” she said. “The University of New Haven is a smaller program that does not have the level of funding these teams have, but we have dedicated faculty and students with heart and determination. We are very proud of the University of New Haven’s hacking team.”

Image of Women's cybersecuroty council.
Ibrahim Baggili, Ph.D., delivered the keynote address.
‘Cybersecurity is all about bringing different people together’

Ibrahim Baggili, Ph.D., Elder Family Chair and director of the University's Connecticut Institute of Technology, delivered the keynote address. He shared the story of the development of the Connecticut Institute of Technology, discussed the importance of cybersecurity education and the groundbreaking work being done at the University, and reflected on the necessity of diversity in the field.

“Cybersecurity is all about bringing different people together,” he said. “Diversity is important. Make sure to take it upon yourself to foster diversity.”

For Zurowski, the computer science major, the advanced cybersecurity concepts that students practiced in the competition are part of what he teaches new students in his role as president of the University’s hacking club. He hopes the work of the club, as well as events such as the competition, continue to create more opportunities for students, as well as awareness of their achievements.

“Our success in this competition reinforces the fact that we are the best cybersecurity team in the state of Connecticut,” he said. “Our university is able to beat schools with more students and resources than we have.”