MELBOURNE, FLA. — Florida Tech’s cybersecurity competition team is ending the year on top.
The L3Harris Institute for Assured Information FITSEC team is the No. 1 ranked cybersecurity team in the nation, according to the National Cyber League. The team also ranked first in 2021.
Centered on the biannual National Cyber League (NCL) competition, the Cyber Power Rankings feature the top 100 schools in the NCL. After a stellar showing at the Fall 2022 competition, FITSEC was the best.
The team “reigned supreme,” according to the NCL news release, coming in first place with 100% accuracy and 2,755 points out of 3,000 total points. The next closest team had 94% accuracy. The Fall 2022 competition included 7,500 students from 470 high schools, colleges and universities representing all 50 states.
“Everyone wants a chance to learn how much their hard work has paid off. National Cyber League allows students to compare their progress against their peers on a national stage,” said TJ O’Connor, assistant professor and chair of the cybersecurity program and faculty advisor for FITSEC . “To be the best, you have to beat the best. But there’s no rest: Next semester will be twice as hard as other participants double their efforts to beat us. This healthy competitiveness only helps to make our students and our peers better as we grow stronger together.”
Student Curtice Gough, who solved the final challenge at the Fall competition with just seven minutes remaining, said NCL was instrumental in his journey to becoming a cyber warrior.
“NCL is what got me started in cyber,” he said. “One of my classmates recommended that I sign up last fall, and I really enjoyed it. Going through NCL’s Gymnasium practice challenges taught me enough to get started, and I changed my major to computer science with a cybersecurity concentration the following semester.”
The NCL competition enables students to prepare and test themselves against practical cybersecurity challenges they will likely face in the workforce, such as identifying hackers from forensic data, pentesting and auditing vulnerable websites, recovering from ransomware attacks and additional cyber skillsets.
Organizers say the competition allows students to put their classroom learning to the test.
“The NCL gives students real-world cybersecurity exercises that represent the work that professionals do on a daily basis, so they are equipped to demonstrate their skills to an employer,” said Franz Payer, CEO of Cyber Skyline, a cloud-based cybersecurity skills evaluation platform that works with NCL to operate the competition. “When they go to an interview and are asked, ‘Do you know how to identify a hacker using log files?’ they can say, ‘Yes, and let me tell you how I did that during NCL.’ That experience becomes invaluable when applying for jobs.”
Launched in 2019 by student and US Army veteran Josh Connolly and a few of his computer engineering peers, FITSEC has grown to include over 80 students. The team is championed by Executive Vice President and Provost Marco Carvalho, who provides support and funding as executive director of the L3Harris Institute of Assured Information. FITSEC has become a top national team since its creation, with multiple first place and top 10 placements.
The team draws its ranks from Florida Tech’s cyber operations curriculum, which O’Connor, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, established in 2019. O’Connor was joined by Sneha Sudhakaran, an expert in mobile security and forensics, as a co-coach of the team this year.