From snow to spring: Connecticut Institute of Technology team prepares for regional cybersecurity competition

Students at a table

The competing students prepare for the Northeast Collegiate Cyber ​​Defense Competition regionals during spring break, after qualifying while at Maxcy Hall during a snowstorm.

March 8, 2022

By Meagan Cipollina, Contributing Author

Students participate in the CCDC qualifier at the University’s Samuel S. Bergami Jr. Cybersecurity Center.

The University of New Haven cyber security club is no stranger to [email protected] competitions. However, the team’s most recent qualifying round and the upcoming regionals of the Northeast Collegiate (CCDC) Cyber ​​Defense Competition illustrated the changing of the seasons, in more ways than one.

The CCDC qualification was scheduled for Jan. 29 — the same day Connecticut was hit by a huge snowstorm and the campus was closed. Team members knew it was essential to be in the same room, especially after having to compete virtually in the past. With the help of the University’s Connecticut Institute of Technology director Ibrahim Baggili, Ph.D., the Office of Facilities, and the Department of Public Safety, the team was given permission to hide out at Maxcy Hall for the event.

Team captain Charles Barone ’22 says the blizzard was unlike anything he had experienced before, but ultimately, he believes, the opportunity to prepare together in person could be a big factor in their success.

“None of this would have been possible without the efforts of Dr. Baggili,” said Barone, a computer science student. “When it came time to leave Maxcy Hall after six hours of competition, the gate was starting to freeze due to ice forming around the gate.”

“A Whole New Team”

Another big reason to have everyone reunited at Maxcy Hall: the competing group was almost a brand new team after two years of consistently ranking in cybersecurity competitions.

“This year has been interesting preparation because it’s a whole new team made up of mostly first and second year students,” said Barone, who, along with Nicholas Dubois ’24, is one of two only students returning for the 2022 competition. “With this new team, it was interesting to see how we were able to come together to learn the basic skills needed to succeed in a competition like CCDC in such a short time.”

Barone explains that the new members had a training camp, of sorts, to prepare them for the upcoming competition.

“Preparation was having these new team members learn everything from networking to Linux and Windows system administration,” he said.

Rounding out the team are Jonathan Chute ’25, Matthew Smith ’23, Devyn Souza ’23, Ryan Stapleton ’25, Zachary Trowbridge ’24 and Mateusz Wiszniewski ’25, along with their coach Mohamed Nassar, Ph.D.

“I am very proud of our team”

It’s clear to many that the team’s desire to excel, despite their relative inexperience, remains the same.

“I’m very proud of our team for reaching the next round, especially since all of our most experienced players have graduated,” said Dr Baggili. “I expect major wins from them in the next 2-3 years!”

“The team has proven, through their success and qualification to compete in regional competitions, that the University of New Haven has a strong system and that we are building a reputation for cybersecurity excellence,” adds Dr. Nasar. “Charles has played a tremendous role in transferring knowledge and experience to new members of the team.”

The team is now preparing for the Northeast Regional, which will be held March 18-20 in Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. Early forecasts call for scattered rain and snow showers throughout the weekend. Dr. Nassar will join the team for the trip.

“Our goal is to accumulate experience and develop a unique personality by showing our talent but also kindness, ethics and sportsmanship,” he said.