UA Little Rock takes fourth place in cybersecurity competition

Cybersecurity student team

A team of computer science majors from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock finished fourth out of 21 teams during the Shell on the Border cybersecurity competition Jan. 26-28 at Fort Smith. 

The Cyber Security Club team members include Malik El-Amin, a senior from North Little Rock; Aaron Mays, a sophomore from Scotland; David Stack, a sophomore from Little Rock; and Carter Williams, a freshman from Dover. The team was sponsored by the Department of Computer Science.

“I personally had a great time and love these competitions not only because the puzzles are fun to break, but the networking that takes place at these events is a great opportunity for us to meet potential employers and industry professionals,” Stack said. “Everyone is super friendly and willing to teach you new skills if you willing to learn.”

The competition featured a “capture the flag” challenge, a hacking tournament and information security competition where teams race to solve cyber puzzles to acquire digital flags, usually a predefined file or string of texts. The challenges are divided by category with puzzles of increasing difficulty ranging from networking, coding, cryptography, web application hacking, brainteasers, and real-life immersive geo-located puzzles in the downtown area.

“The harder the problem, the more points you receive,” Mays said. “You’re required to put multiple things in practice, such as computer forensics, cryptography, steganography, reverse engineering, social engineering, and programming. I learned a lot of new things, one of those being how to crack a Wi-Fi password.”

In addition to learning valuable new skills, the team even earned an honorable mention and special trophy for hacking into the Facebook and Gmail accounts the game administrators created for the competition and holding the accounts ransom for extra points.

“This may seem bad, but the point to these competitions is to utterly defeat anything within the competition’s scope,” Stack said. “The only rules are don’t hack the other teams and don’t hack the scoreboard. We got major bonus points for hacking the game administrators.”

The Cyber Security Club meets every Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the Engineering and Information Technology Building Room 543. For more information, contact the club’s advisor, Dr. Mengjun Xie, at mxxie@ualr.edu.

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