White House Welcomes Cyber Champs

Central Florida team returns for third victory tour

White House Welcomes Cyber Champs

The University of Central Florida cyber defense team visits the White House during a victory tour, July 28.

Wearing matching red jerseys, a team of University of Central Florida students visited the White House in July, receiving the rock star treatment after winning its third straight National Collegiate Cyber Competition championship.

While winding their way through the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, they were spotted by Michael Daniel, special assistant to the President and cybersecurity coordinator, who whispered to a colleague, “Those are the cyber defense winners.”

“I was surprised and pleased that our country’s cyber czar recognized us,” said team coach Tom Nedorost, a professor at UCF.

It was the team's third annual trip in a row to the White House, courtesy of Raytheon, which presents the competition.

The road to D.C. wasn’t easy. The competition required students to keep a mock business running while fending off constant cyber attacks from a team of skilled “white hat” hackers. The “Cyber Knights” beat more than 2,400 competitors from more than 220 schools in a series of qualifying rounds, state competitions, regionals and finally, the national championship.

Raytheon invited the champions to the nation's capital to show the students new cyber technologies, bring awareness to the efforts of the government and industry to combat Internet threats and provide them a better understanding of cyber career opportunities.

“Cybersecurity is unlike many other career fields, because you can come straight from college and make an immediate impact,” said Valecia Maclin, a Raytheon cyber program manager. “A new graduate, especially one who has competed in NCCDC and won, can come right in and very quickly, join a team that’s helping to protect our national security and economic stability."

The tour began at Raytheon's campus in Dulles, Virginia, where Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services employees welcomed the students. Raytheon cyber professionals also staged a code challenge, testing the students’ skills at programming puzzles.

Over the next two days, the students made stops at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Cyber Crimes Center in Fairfax, Virginia, where agents catch crooks with keyboards; the International Spy Museum in downtown D.C.; and the CIA Museum in Langley, Virginia, to see some of the more than 3,500 intel artifacts.

One of the high points of the tour, according to Nedorost and students, was a visit to the FBI Academy and FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia. The FBI Lab employs more than 500 agents and forensic technicians who use science to investigate high-profile crimes.

“They actually let us into the lab and look around; it was an incredible opportunity and the students were fascinated,” Nedorost said.  “They have filing cabinets upon filing cabinets stuffed full of exemplars of every single cell phone, PC, laptop, tablet and memory card every made, everything from Amigas to ZIP drives. They've got to be prepared to recover digital evidence from vintage technology recovered at crime scenes.”

The tour culminated with the visit to the White House, where the Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted a Cybersecurity Competition Workshop.

Alex Levinson, an information security specialist at Uber, the featured speaker, talked about his experience as a past NCCDC competitor, representing Rochester Institute of Technology in the NCCDC in 2011.

The students were thrilled to get a face-to-face meeting with Jeff Moss, known in the hacking world as Dark Tangent, Moss is the computer security expert who founded the Black Hat and DEF CON computer security conferences, both of which were held in the past few weeks.

Moss urged the students to explore the “dark side” of cybersecurity, saying you need to have a grasp of hacking skills if you’re going to be successful at protecting a network. “The bottom line of Moss’s message,” said Heather Lawrence, a member of the UCF team, "is that you need to know what the bad guys are doing if you’re going to defend against them."

Central Florida students compete
Central Florida students compete in a code challenge at Raytheon's Intelligence, Information and Services headquarters in Dulles, Virginia.

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Last Updated: 02/01/2018