The Charger Blog

University’s Hacking Team Excels in Cyber Defense Competition

The University of New Haven captured second place in the virtual Northeast Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, and the team now has the opportunity to advance in the next round of the competition.

April 5, 2021

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Hacking Team on Zoom.
The University’s hacking team has the opportunity to advance in the next round of the competition.

Sam Zurowski ’21 and his teammates on the University’s hacking team recently found themselves working together as employees of a mock global news agency called “News Crier.” They were “hired” to ensure the agency’s security needs following its transition to remote operations amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Zurowski and his teammates were tasked with setting up a way for employees to work remotely via Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing service, while responding to attacks from hackers, who had already begun a cyber attack.

The team’s work with “News Crier” was part of its participation in the Northeast Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC). Since the competition was held remotely because of the pandemic, the theme was “mobility,” and students were tasked with improving the mobility of a mock organization. Zurowski and his teammates excelled in the competition, capturing second place.

“Our team did extremely well,” said Zurowski, a computer science major. “Throughout the competition, our team was under constant attack, and we were able to keep a majority of critical business services up while completing all tasks.”

As teams worked through their assignments, they were challenged by “the red team,” industry professionals who acted as hackers trying to exploit the mock organization. Students worked together to defend the organization while ensuring that company employees could continue working uninterrupted remotely.

“This competition was very challenging because it takes the complete cooperation of all teammates, as everything we did had immediate implications due to the presence of an active ‘red team,’” said Charles Barone ’22, a computer science major and the team’s captain. “Throughout the competition we were forced to think outside the box for solutions to problems that, in some cases, one wouldn't expect. It allowed us to derive solutions to problems we otherwise wouldn't have thought of if it were not for the environment we were in.”

School logos from competition
The University of New Haven captured second place in the virtual Northeast Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.
‘This is an extreme achievement for the University’

The competition is designed to assess students’ depth of understanding and competency in managing the challenges of protecting network infrastructures and information systems. It enables students to apply the skills they have learned in the classroom while fostering teamwork and effective communication.

Ibrahim Baggili, Ph.D., Elder Family Chair and director of the University’s Connecticut Institute of Technology, served as the team’s coach. He is quick to give the students full credit for the team’s success.

“The success of our team exemplifies the excellence we instill in our students at the Connecticut Institute of Technology,” he said. “Although I was their coach, they are the ones who should be coaching me in the skills that they are gaining in and out of the classroom. They did this by their own volition and their own dedication to hard work and perseverance.

“What is impressive, as usual, is that we constantly beat universities with many times our resources and students,” Dr. Baggili continued. “This reflects our dedication to providing a quality education, where we teach the students to work hard, have fun, and help others.”

The team, which includes undergraduate and graduate students, has now secured a spot in the CCDC’s wild card category. This means the team will have the opportunity to compete against another group of accomplished colleges and schools, with a spot in the nationals on the line.

“This is an extreme achievement for the University, as it is the first time our school has placed in the regionals for CCDC,” said Zurowski. “Additionally, if we win wildcards, we have the chance to go to nationals, which would be an amazing achievement.”