Some of the challenges seem like the kind of stuff you’d see in movies, but they have real-world applications.
Mason Competitive Cyber president Michael Bailey
The Mason Competitive Cyber club won the 2018 Commonwealth Cyber Cup at a prestigious state competition last weekend.
Mason was one of 13 schools that competed in the invitation-only Cyber Fusion Competition for Virginia community colleges and universities that are National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Security. The event was held at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.
The intense four-hour competition involved solving a variety of complex cyber challenges including hacking into websites, performing reverse engineering on programs, analyzing network traffic, and deciphering encrypted messages.
“Some of the challenges seem like the kind of stuff you’d see in movies, but they have real-world applications,” says Mason Competitive Cyber president Michael Bailey, a junior majoring in IT. Other members on the competition team were Ammar Al-Kahfah, Paul Benoit, Chuck Tran, Chris Issing, and Christopher Roberts.
It’s very rewarding when your group solves a complex problem, and you get points on the scoreboard, Bailey says. Mason Competitive Cyber was the only club that solved some of the problems.
The team went into the competition optimistic because Mason placed fourth last year. “This year we were much more deliberate about everything,” Bailey says.
Mason’s observing student group placed second in a parallel challenge. Those competing members were Doreen Joseph, Natalie Parke, Kang Xu, and Steve Zamory.
“We went into this to have fun, meet new people, and work as a team,” says head coach Peggy Brouse, director of the bachelor of science in cyber security engineering program at Mason. “I admit, though, that it was gratifying to win the competition. I am incredibly proud of all the Mason participants.”
She was impressed by the comradery and composure of all the teams. “It was a pleasure to meet people from all across the Commonwealth.”
Assistant coach Jim Jones, an associate professor in the digital forensics and cyber analysis program in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, says of Mason's team: "The students are self-driven. They teach themselves. They teach each other. They compete frequently. They use their wits, skills, and knowledge to solve problems they’ve never seen before.”
The goal of the event, co-hosted by Senator Mark R. Warner and Governor Ralph Northam, is to develop the next generation of cybersecurity professionals in Virginia. Students participated in cyber challenges, learned from industry professionals, networked, and attended a cyber job fair.
Mason Engineering has 17 cyber-degree programs, including a first-of its-kind bachelor of science in cyber security engineering, multiple master’s degrees and graduate certificates in cyber security, and an interdisciplinary PhD in information technology with concentrations in information security and assurance as well as digital forensics.
We went into this to have fun, meet new people, and work as a team. I admit, though, that it was gratifying to win the competition. I am incredibly proud of all the Mason participants.
Head coach Peggy Brouse
The students are self-driven. They teach themselves. They teach each other. They compete frequently. They use their wits, skills, and knowledge to solve problems they’ve never seen before.
Assistant coach Jim Jones