The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

University’s cyber security team preps for regional competition

By Bobby Martinez/@bmartinez203

This weekend, Rufus Reed will lead the university’s award-winning cyber security team, Cyber Security Athenaeum, during a regional competition.

If he’s victorious, the computer information systems senior will give his student-led team a foothold in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, April 24-26 in San Antonio, Texas.

Reed, a retired U.S. Air Force vehicle maintenance operator, said he is excited to be a part of this year’s regional competition. The team, he added, is focused this year on going into the regional round.

A&M-San Antonio hosts the Southwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition March 7-8, bringing nine teams from 4 states across the southwest region.

The Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition gives students opportunities to put their learned knowledge to the test.

The competition attracts students who attend universities that offer either information assurance or computer security curriculums.

The competition sets up a controlled environment for student competitors to feel the technical challenges of a business’  IT department that faces challenges from both inside and outside threats.

Reed said he saw a lot of potential in his team as they fought their way through the qualifying round making it to the 2015 regional round.

“I really feel good,” he said. “We have a lot of talented and motivated people. We acted as a team.”

Team member becomes leader

Last year, Reed served as a team member during the qualifying competition. A lack of team effort and communication were two reasons the team didn’t advance to the regional competition, he said.

Former student team captain Zach Havins of A&M-San Antonio and his team destroyed the 2013 qualifying round,but could not get the job done in regionals.

Reed was on last year’s team. He said the team did not have the drive to win. The team failed to communicate with each other which knocked them out of the competition.

A group interview March 2 with Reed and three of his team members showed how the team relates to the Spurs’ big three and coach Gregg Popovich.

Asked what he brings to the team as a leader, Reed paused and reflected. Team member Ashton-Drake Giddings, former Trinity University cyber security member, lightened the mood.

“He brings the humor,” Giddings said.

Before answering, Reed and his teammates shared a moment of laughter.

“Quite honestly, when I look at our talent I’m kind of untalented compared to them,” Reed said.

This year, after encouragement from faculty, Reed signed up for regionals and became the team’s captain by default. As a senior this is his last chance to achieve national recognition. Reed says he has the drive to take his team to nationals because the team is better, they talk more, and they come together when it matters.

What does he bring to the table?

Before leaving the Air Force Reed said wanted to cross train and change jobs, because the overall interest in vehicle maintenance was lower than the demand.

Reed said the only way the Air Force would allow him to change jobs is if the new job was more or at least as critical, and IT was not. Therefore, he was not allowed to change fields.

Reed still felt the need to change fields was important. On his off time, he tinkered with computers. His passion to learn as much about computers led to him to volunteer for additional duty.

“Whenever one of the shops needed someone to work on their computers they would call me first,” Reed said. “If I could not fix it I would call the computer shop. It is a passion for me but it is also a career change.

Reed is leading the team for the first time to the competition’s pool of talented universities such as seven-time Southwest regional champs A&M University-College Station as well as last years returning champs, Southern Methodist University.

CSA is not concerned with other teams, because they know they are talented. It all comes down to who performs better on the day of the Southwest regionals.

Inside the competition

The competition’s theme changes each year, but the goal is the same. When the competition starts, each team assumes the role of a business’ cyber security team. In last year’s scenario, students found out that their company’s prior cyber team quit their job, or were fired, and passwords for any of their systems are not known.

It was up to the new team to recover passwords by hacking into the computers. Then they had to see if any services have been compromised such as Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, that allows users to send emails. They need to get all services online that would need to run a company.

Throughout the competition, students will get “injects request” that simulate what CEOs or their supervisor will have them do such as taking down certain services or create a website. While all this is happening, hackers (professional cyber security members working for corporate businesses), will attempt to gain access to their networks.

Judges score in different ways. For example, when a team gets an inject they have to fulfill the request correctly within a time limit to receive points.

Another way is when students report when a hacker gains access into their network. They lose points for letting their systems become compromised, they earn points for detecting that someone is in their systems.

Reed hopes to use the qualifying round as a starting point to succeed in regionals.

“We are taking what happened during the qualifier and looking at our weakness and looking at ways to make them stronger,” Reed said.

About the Author

Bobby Martinez
Bobby Martinez is a staff writer for The Mesquite. Bobby is a communications-journalism sociology minor. In 2014, he graduated from Palo Alto College with an associates in communication with an emphasis in public relations. Prior to attending school he was an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Navy for four years. Bobby is seeking a career in public relations. He has an interest in technology, the outdoors and student engagement.

Join the Conversation

© 2024 Jaguar Student Media | Texas A&M University-San Antonio. All Rights Reserved. All Rights Reserved.
San Antonio Website Design & Development - Backyard Studios
Join Our Newsletter

Get the Mesquite News delivered straight to you.