USF CSE students place as finalists at two cybersecurity competitions


It was a big weekend for the USF CSE Department, as two teams of students were finalists in Cybersecurity Capture the Flag competitions last week.

A CTF tournament is where competitors hack a computer system to complete a challenge or retrieve an unknown “flag”. This sort of competition exposes students to security challenges in at least three areas: web services, cryptography, and forensics. 

Team Protosec, short for “Protocol Security”, (pictured above) took second place at Saint Leo University's CTF tournament. The event was hosted by St. Leo’s School of Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Data Science, and was sponsored by Imperium Data.

“We solved all but one challenge!” said Waseem Albaba (cybersecurity), the team captain. His team was composed of senior cybersecurity students from USF, including Abir Limon, Ethan Couch, Enes Bulut, Jack Wansboro. 

The second USF win was by CSE PhD candidates Brooks Olney and Farhath Zareen (pictured right), who took part in an international hardware security competition called HeLLoCTF.

Brooks and Farhath

Brooks’ research interests include cybersecurity, and hardware/algorithm acceleration and security using FPGAs. Farhath’s research interests include biologically inspired computational algorithms, machine learning, software/hardware security and wearable/implantable devices for healthcare. Together, they represented the Interface Research Lab (IRL), advised by Dr. Robert Karam, under the name Team USF. They developed a tool for analyzing obfuscated netlists using high-performance graph analysis and boolean satisfiability in Python. They won fourth place at HeLLoCTF among worldwide competitors.

With their performances at these tournaments, the Protsec and Team USF have demonstrated the skills they learned while students in USF CSE, and will soon put to the greater test in the rapidly-growing and competitive field of computer security.