Skip Navigation

The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) cyber competition team, the Cyber Padawans, concluded its 2018 competition schedule with a string of victories and top finishes.

A powerful force in the world of cybersecurity hacking competitions, the UMUC Cyber Padawans, comprising students, alumni and faculty across a variety of the university’s cybersecurity and IT programs, ended 2018 with a first-place finish in a November capture the flag competition sponsored by Parsons Corporation, a global provider of cyber and converged security services.

To win, the Cyber Padawans beat out 15 teams including squads from the National Security Agency and Unallocated Space, as well as teams from other universities. The Parsons competition, which is held every other month, tests skills in network forensics, web hacking, cryptography, coding, penetration testing, SCADA/ICS security, reverse engineering and other key areas.

Members of the winning team included UMUC students Adam Boretos, Jonathan Woodward and Andrew Valliere; alumni Alex Barney, Rick Hidalgo and Antonio Punturiero; and UMUC faculty member and Cyber Padawans team advisor Jesse Varsalone.

The Cyber Padawans followed the Parsons victory with a first-place finish in the DC War Games: Capture the Flag, sponsored by cybersecurity training provider SecureSet. The competition, which took place in Arlington, Virginia, in December included questions on Linux, cryptography and steganography. The winning team members included Varsalone, students Jonathan Woodward and Robert Drye, and Computer  Networks and Security (CNAS) Program Chair Brenda Holland, Ph.D.

In addition to these wins, the Cyber Padawans placed third among 46 teams that took part in the MAGIC—Mid- Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory—competition in Westminster, Maryland. Participants in the MAGIC cybersecurity competition, which spans locations across the United States and abroad, compete in teams of two-to-four people using hacking tools to solve puzzles and earn points.

The UMUC team included students Robert Drye and Paul Chilcote, and alumnus Julian Pacheco.

Varsalone attributes the Cyber Padawans’ recent string of victories and high placements to a more rigorous tryout process. “We’re now holding monthly capture the flag tryouts, which has helped the team stay sharp and maintain its world-class status,” he said.

Looking ahead, the Cyber Padawans plan a busy 2019 competition schedule that kicked off with a MITRE capture the flag competition on Jan. 11 and the first Parsons competition of 2019 on Jan. 18, and continues with the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition on Feb. 16.

Also, in 2019, the Cyber Padawans will explore scholarship opportunities and other initiatives to help UMUC in its continued efforts to attract top cyber talent to the graduate and undergraduate programs and plans this fall call for moving into a new state-of-the-art computer lab.

About University of Maryland University College

UMUC 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. UMUC 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 UMUC, visit