Maryland cyber challenge feature

University of Maryland University College swept two divisions of the Maryland Cyber Challenge for the second consecutive year, capturing first place in both the college and professional divisions of the premier Maryland cyber competition held at the annual Cyber Maryland conference in Baltimore.

"This is a tough competition, and to beat many great teams just to get to the finals in the college and professional divisions is an amazing accomplishment," said Jeff Tjiputra, chair of UMUC's undergraduate cyber security program and academic advisor to the cyber competition teams. "We fielded four teams for this competition (two in each division), and all four made it to the final round. That speaks to the quality of our teams."

The Capture the Flag competition required teams to score points by hacking into a server and planting a flag (i.e., a digital signature) in that server. In some cases, another team may have planted a flag on the server, so the new team must remove the first team's flag before planting their own. The team with the most points after a six-hour period was declared the winner.

The UMUC team that captured the professional division title accumulated 10,025 points and finished ahead of the second place team by more than 5,000 points. Conversely, in a tight battle for the college division crown, UMUC's Cyber Padawans claimed victory by being the only team to put points (1,025) on the board, penetrating the server, and planting a single flag during the competition.  

"Our hard work and dedication have paid off, and once again we are the champions," said Wilbert Francis, captain of the victorious UMUC collegiate division team and a student in the Master of Science in Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation. "The collegiate division was more challenging than previous years. However, through teamwork and perseverance we were able to pull off a win. I am really proud of our teams. And special thanks go to Professor Jeff Tjiputra, our coach and mentor. Today's win would not have been possible without his support."

Francis was joined on the winning college division team by Thomas Burgin, Nathaniel Davis, and Kwasi Robinson. Richard Hidalgo competed in the qualifying rounds but could not attend the final round.

In the final round, UMUC defeated another team from UMUC as well as two teams from University of Maryland, College Park; two teams from University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and one team each from Towson University and George Mason University.

The champion UMUC professional division team was led by Matt Matchen, a UMUC alumnus and systems engineer at Braxton Grant Technologies. Other members included Daniel Coyne, Rob Murphy, Mark Stevenson, Jeff Tjiputra, and Jacob Truhlar. Tjiputra, the cyber competition program's coach, participated in the qualifying rounds but did not compete in the final round.

Matchen and Murphy were also members of the UMUC Cyber Padawans team that recently captured the 2014 Global CyberLympics championship, held in Barcelona, Spain.

"It was a bittersweet win," said Matchen. "I didn't enjoy the fact that I was competing against another UMUC team [the other UMUC team that reached the final round finished in third place], but I did notice at one point in the competition that UMUC teams held first and second place, and that was nice to see.

"The competition was extremely challenging," Matchen added, "particularly as time wore on and teams began to alter techniques to get into systems. The last two to three hours of the competition we were battling over flags on three machines on which our flags were planted. One of the other teams managed to kick us off the box completely and supplant our flag with theirs.

"Not only was the competition tough, so was the game environment itself," Matchen continued. "We were hampered by the fact that there was no Internet connection to be able to download tools and that there were only two systems per team that could actively be used to attack the targets. In spite of these challenges, we managed to persevere and win."

Matchen concluded: "I'm thankful to my team, who stuck with it to the very end, and for their respective skill sets. Each member was invaluable as we all worked together to accomplish our goal of winning."

Each member of the first-place team in the collegiate division won a $5,000 scholarship cash prize, while members of the first-place team in the professional division each won an IT certification voucher and a professional development kit.