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UMass Boston's team has gotten together every Friday since August to prepare for the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition. (Photo by: Colleen Locke)
February 24, 2016

UMass Boston’s CyberWarriors Win Qualifying Round Of Cyber Defense Competition


  • Boston
UMass Boston to Compete in Northeast Regional Round March 11-13 in Maine

For the first time, computer science students from UMass Boston have placed first in the qualifying round of the Northeast Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, besting 14 other teams, including teams from cybersecurity powerhouses like Northeastern University and Rochester Institute of Technology.

UMass Boston and nine other teams have advanced to the Northeast Regional round, which will be held March 11-13 at the University of Maine. The Northeast region is made up of Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The winning teams from the March contest will move on to April’s national championship in San Antonio, Texas.

The UMass Boston captain, computer science PhD student Mihai Maruseac, has been with the team for three years now. He explains that the competition simulates being a new IT department for a company getting blasted by cyber attacks.

“The previous IT team was dismissed because they were really poor at the job, so we take  over and ensure that the systems work properly and that no attackers can get inside the company, and we also get stuff to do for the CIO—install this software, install this operating system, create new accounts,” Maruseac said.

While the regional round takes place over three days, during the qualifying round, the students were tested over a few hours. The qualifying was done virtually, although there were judges from the computer industry onsite at UMass Boston.

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Gabriel Ghinita has served as the team’s coach for the last three years. This year’s team has been getting together every Friday since August.

“Every year you get a new setup with a new technology, so training means having to keep up with whatever is the latest trend and the latest types of attacks. This is why it’s very challenging to train for this kind of competition because new attacks are going to show up all the time and new technologies are going to show up every year,” Ghinita said.

Oana Niculaescu, who is in her first year as a student in UMass Boston’s Computer Science PhD program, is new to the team.

“You get a set of skills that you can’t get in any other way. You are faced with real problems in a simulated environment, and it’s a problem you could be confronted with if you are working,” Niculaescu said.

The next round presents additional networking opportunities as Ghinita says recruiters looking for cybersecurity professionals will be in attendance.

“Pretty much everybody who wants to gets a job out of this competition,” Ghinita said.

Along with the two PhD students, undergraduates Evan Donato, Steven Gatto, Michael Gattozzi, John Leary, Daniel Manning, and Thomas Martin round out the UMass Boston team.