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UMGC Global Media Center UMGC Finishes 2nd at NCAE Cyber Games

Alex Kasten
By Alex Kasten
  • News |
  • Cybersecurity

Adelphi, Md. (March 3, 2023) —The cybersecurity competition team at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) captured second place in the first round of the annual National Centers of Academic Excellence (NCAE) Cyber Games’ competition for the Northeast Region.

Eleven universities, including Boston University, Liberty University, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, competed in the combined defend-the-network and capture-the-flag (CTF) event. UMGC finished in the top spot in the CTF component of the event, and second place overall. Liberty earned first place in the overall competition.

“This is our best result in the two years that we’ve participated in this event,” said Jesse Varsalone, associate professor of cybersecurity technology at UMGC and faculty adviser for the cyber competition program. “The second-place finish in round one marks a positive opening to our 2023 season and allowed our diverse team of undergraduates to showcase their skills.”

The UMGC team comprised undergraduates Aidan Bennett, Noe Corral-Galvan, Joel Francis, Jason Griffis, who served as team captain, Ali Niazi, Lisa Price, Jonathan White, and Joseph Zurner. During the competition, each team voted on a most valuable teammate and a most improved teammate. For UMGC, those honors went to Jason Griffis and Lisa Price, respectively.

The six-hour regional competition was for schools accredited by the National Security Agency (NSA). To qualify for the NCAE Cyber Games, institutions must be an NSA Center of Academic Excellence (NCAE-CD), a designation UMGC achieved in 2022. The CAE-CD designation is awarded to regionally accredited academic institutions offering cybersecurity-related degrees, including majors, minors, and/or certificates at the associate, bachelor, and graduate levels.

The NCAE Cyber Games is an annual competition that includes system hardening and defense with a “live” red team attacking the students’ systems, as well as a CTF. The CTF is a set of puzzles that requires hacking tools, coding skills, and problem solving to find answers, which are short strings of code called “flags.” Once located, the flags are entered onto a scoreboard that keeps a tally for all teams.

UMGC's cybersecurity competition team is composed of students, alumni, and faculty who compete regularly in digital forensics, penetration testing, and computer network defense scenarios that help them gain experience to advance their cybersecurity skills and careers. The UMGC Multi-Dimensional Applied Relevant System (MARS) virtual lab environment, an NSA Center of Academic Excellence partnership, and other resources help students prepare for competitions.

The team, ranked among the top 50 in the National Cyber League in 2022, has received numerous honors throughout its history, including championships in local, national, and international competitions. In addition to several top-three finishes in the Maryland Cyber Challenge, UMGC won the gold medal in the 2014 Global CyberLympics and took first place in 2015 in the inaugural DiploHack competition sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. UMGC also won a Silver Award in the 2016 National Cyber Analyst Challenge and finished third in the 2022 Maritime and Control Systems Cybersecurity Con Hack the Port competition.

About University of Maryland Global Campus

Currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established in 1947 to serve adults in the workforce and the military. Today, UMGC enrolls some 90,000 students annually, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, as well as certificates in more than 125 fully online, hybrid and face-to-face programs and specializations.

UMGC has a long history of innovation in reaching students where they are, including as a pioneer of internet instruction, piloting its first online classes in 1994. The university has received numerous awards for its groundbreaking work in developing fully online degree programs, including in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, business, data analytics, health care, and education.

The university now offers classes to military service personnel and their families at some 175+ locations in 20 countries. More than half of UMGC’s students are active-duty military personnel, their families, members of the National Guard, and veterans.