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Whitehatters Group Places Second in Capture the Flag Competition

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The College of Engineering Whitehatters Computer Security Club (WCSC) placed second during the first annual Raymond James Financial Capture the Flag (CTF) competition held on the Raymond James campus in St. Petersburg.

Teams comprised of university sophomores from University of South Florida, University of Florida, Penn State University, University of Central Florida, University of North Florida, St. Petersburg College, and St. Leo University competed against each other to see who could solve the most computer security challenges. The teams had to exploit security vulnerabilities in websites and network services, reverse engineer software and cryptography systems, perform digital forensics and data recovery, and break into physical security systems such as mechanical and electronic safes. The CTF goal is to find the best hacker in the room.

"With infrastructure and computer systems world-wide under attack every day, the need for skilled highly-technical cybersecurity professionals is in high demand," said Robert H. Bishop, dean of the College of Engineering.

As cyberattacks on companies and institutions reach an all-time high, the need for information security professionals is growing. Many college students get rigorous cyber security training at the CTF event and the competition provides the opportunity to put their training to the test through a series of challenges, racking up points.

"Students in the College of Engineering are being prepared in the areas of data security, cyber operations security, cyber systems access security and database security, intrusion detection and prevention, integrated hardware and computing security, large networked systems security and networked interdependent cyber-physical systems," said Bishop. There is a rapidly expanding body of knowledge in cybersecurity and we are moving to the leading edge."

The USF Computer Science sophomores who competed were Kevin Orr, Marcos Serrano, Carlos Leon, Lily Tang and Logan Lopez. The team was coached by WCSC student president Brad Daniels, a senior computer science major, and faculty advisors Simon Ou (College of Engineering) and Nathan Fisk (College of Education).

"Events like CTF provide hands on experience for our students as well as giving industry the opportunity to see our students in action. We have a strong core of faculty experts teaching and doing research in the cybersecurity area."

The Whitehatters Computer Security Club (WCSC) is a Student Government Activity and Service funded organization at the University of South Florida. WCSC was originally founded in 2005 with the goal of developing a competitive team to play in DEFCON's Capture the Flag competition.

Today, although the primary focus is still on participating in various information security competitions, the goals of WCSC have expanded to include raising awareness in regard to issues within the field of information security among its membership and the community. The club participates in multiple events throughout the year, most of which are Capture the Flag competitions, but WCSC additionally hosts and participates in other events such as Boot Camps, Engineering Expo, Technology Socials, etc. Weekly meetings are held every semester, and the group accepts USF students of all majors and all skill levels as members.

Through membership in WCSC, students have the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience with real-world security problems, as well as build resumes by participating in the numerous events the Club is engaged in. They strive to provide as many opportunities as possible for their members to grow, learn, and become ideal candidates for information security positions after graduation.