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UMGC Global Media CenterUMGC Cyber Padawans Rack Up Accomplishments, Take Second Place 

Notable achievements across a variety of cybersecurity hacking challenges highlight the UMUC Cyber Padawans’ busy fall competition schedule

ADELPHI, Md. (Oct. 25) – The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) Cyber Padawans hacking competition team captured 2nd place, along with a $300 cash prize, at the “Catch the Ghost” Halloween-themed capture the flag (CTF) competition, held on Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation in Linthicum Heights, Maryland.

This event, sponsored by HackEd, along with the Maryland Tech Connection, The Hacker Ground, and Launch! Annapolis was a professional-level competition between approximately 30 teams that focused on the exploitation of Windows and Linux systems across multiple networks.

UMGC Cyber Padawans team members competing in the CTF competition included: undergraduates Andrew Valliere, Julian Pacheco, Paul Chilcote, Alex Barney, and Robert Webb; alumni Kwasi Robinson and Antonio Punturiero; and faculty member Jesse Varsalone.

On Saturday, Sept. 7, the UMGC Cyber Padawans competed in the Eastern Regional Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC) at State College, Pennsylvania, where they earned a Judges Award, along with a $1,500 cash prize, for their exceptional oral communication skills demonstrated during the interview portion of the competition. The CPTC competition focused on hacking into Windows and Linux systems as well as submitting a Pentesting report 12 hours after the hands-on segment of the competition.

The Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition team consisted of five UMGC undergraduate students, including Joy Huggins, Leonid Burlachuk, Robert Webb and Aaron Robertson. Dale Goldson, Jesse Varsalone and Nischit Vaidya served as faculty mentors.

On Tuesday, Sept. 5, the Cyber Padawans earned the 3rd-place trophy at the Parsons competition in Columbia, Maryland, which featured challenges in forensics, network forensics, hacking, Internet research and reverse engineering. The team consisted of students Andrew Valliere, Julian Pacheco and faculty member Jesse Varsalone.

“The Padawans have consistently performed well across a variety of areas, including computer forensics, reverse engineering, hacking, penetration testing and cryptography,” said Varsalone, ‎an associate professor of computer networks and cybersecurity at UMGC and the team’s coach. “Our recent string of successes is a testament to the skill and experience of our current and former UMGC students and faculty, who continue to learn from each other and further develop the skills that employers want.”

About University of Maryland Global Campus

UMGC is a world leader in innovative educational models, with award-winning online programs in disciplines including biotechnology, cybersecurity, data analytics, and information technology that are in high demand in today’s increasingly technical global workplace. Now celebrating its 70th anniversary, UMGC offers open access with a global footprint and a specific mission—to meet the learning needs of adult students whose responsibilities may include jobs, family and military service. For more information about UMGC, visit

 About HackEd

HackEd is a six-week, intensive hands-on-keyboard cybersecurity training program.  Applicants with advanced technical and soft skills vie for 10 to 15 spots in each cohort, and then HackEd provides them with the balance of the skills they need for successful careers in cybersecurity through training and networking opportunities with employers that are hiring cybersecurity talent.

About CPTC

The Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC) provides a vehicle for up and coming cybersecurity student teams to build and hone the skills required to effectively discover, triage, and mitigate critical security vulnerabilities. This competition is unique in offering a simulated environment that mimics real-world networks. The competition focuses on improving the security posture of a fictitious organization and reporting on risks in a manner that is similar to a real professional environment.

About Parsons

Parsons is a technology-driven engineering services firm with more than 70 years of experience in the engineering, construction, technical, and professional services industries. The corporation is a leader in many diversified markets with a focus on infrastructure, defense, security, and construction. Parsons delivers design/design-build, program/construction management, systems design/engineering, cyber/converged security, and other professional services packaged in innovative alternative delivery methods to federal, regional, and local government agencies, as well as to private industrial customers worldwide.