A Byte of FITSEC: 8 (Tid)Bits About Florida Tech’s Champion Cybersecurity Competition Team

A byte is a unit of digital information that most commonly consists of eight bits. Here are eight (tid)bits you may not know about FITSEC.

Laptop with an illuminated keyboard and "Hack to the Future" sticker

1. “FITSEC” stands for “FITSEC Information Technology Security.”

It is a recursive acronym, meaning that the first letter stands for the acronym itself—a common phenomenon in computer programming. Other examples: GNU: GNU’s Not Unix; WINE: WINE Is Not an Emulator; RPM: RPM Package Manager 

2. TJ O’Connor served as head coach of the first-ever U.S. Cyber Team.

The team placed third at the International Cybersecurity Challenge in Athens, Greece, in June 2022.

Assistant Professor TJ O'Connor, primary FITSEC faculty advisor and director of Florida Tech’s cybersecurity program
Assistant Professor TJ O’Connor, primary FITSEC faculty advisor and director of Florida Tech’s cybersecurity program

3. In January 2022, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio sent a letter to then FITSEC president Blake Janes congratulating the team on its NCL Championship. 

“Your victory in this competition is a testament to your years of hard work and signifies not only your commitment to learning, but to using your talents to combat the threats that could affect the lives of Americans.”

—U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

4. Sneha Sudhakaran joined the team as FITSEC co-advisor in August 2022. 

A computer engineering and sciences assistant professor and renowned authority in mobile and memory forensics, Sudhakaran is a technical expert and champion of FITSEC’s mentorship efforts.

Sneha Sudhakaran, computer engineering and sciences assistant professor and FITSEC co-advisor
Sneha Sudhakaran, computer engineering and sciences assistant professor and FITSEC co-advisor

5. Countless FITSEC alumni work in cybersecurity roles at major organizations across the country. 


  • Boeing Co.
  • Cromulence
  • U.S. Central Intelligence Agency
  • ICR Inc.
  • International Systems Management Corp.
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Pidoxa
  • Raytheon CODEX
  • REDLattice
  • Research Innovations Inc.
  • STR Global

6. Curtice Gough is FITSEC’s third and current president. 

Gough is ranked 17th nationally and was named a National Cyber Scholar in summer 2022. Outside of FITSEC, he is working with O’Connor under an Office of Naval Research grant to design and build “hackable toys” to teach cybersecurity to high school students. 

“I’ve had a ton of fun getting down and dirty with the inner workings of FITSEC and helping to make it an even more supportive place for absolute beginners. Being president of FITSEC means a responsibility to nurture the growth of the other members.” 

Curtice Gough, FITSEC president
Curtice Gough, FITSEC president

7. FITSEC hosted its second annual Space Heroes Cybersecurity Competition in April. 

Students developed, organized and carried out the two-day, international capture the flag competition that drew more than 2,000 competitors from around the world. Its name and space-themed challenges pay homage to Florida Tech’s space heritage, and the prize for winning teams included certificates from astronauts Winston Scott and Drew Morgan. 

8. Tales from the Team

NCL Victory

With about five minutes left on the clock and just a few points behind the leader during the 2022 NCL Championship, FITSEC was stuck on a steganography challenge where the flag was somehow hidden within an image of Taylor Swift. After exhausting every method they could think of to extract the flag, members agreed to sacrifice some points to receive a hint. The hint revealed the tool needed, and the team submitted the flag with just seconds to spare—putting them ahead by five points and securing the championship! 


The team once purchased a toy dragon to practice hacking wireless devices. For hours, members tried everything they could think of, only to find the toy wasn’t wireless after all—it was infrared, meaning there were no radio signals to hack. To this day, the dragon can be found around the FITSEC House as an unofficial mascot of sorts. 

Pink Unicorn

FITSEC hosts a “Big Brother CTF” during which senior FITSEC members (Big Brothers) team up with two junior members (Little Brothers) each to complete a series of challenges. With a goal of easing newer members into the competition environment, the CTF requires only Little Brothers control the keyboard while Big Brothers act as coaches. At the end of the competition, Little Brothers who perform “too well” are awarded the pink unicorn and are promoted to Big Brothers for the next time. 

Learn more about FITSEC and its rapid rise to the top of the collegiate competitive cybersecurity realm.

Cover of the Florida Tech Magazine spring 2023 issue

This piece was featured in the spring 2023 edition of Florida Tech Magazine.

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