March 9, 2018

U of New Haven cybersecurity team advances in national competition

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Ibrahim "Abe" Baggili

The University of New Haven will join nine other schools from across the nation in April to compete for a $20,000 prize in the 2018 National Cyber Analyst Challenge, which tests students' ability to trace and prevent malicious hacking.

Students from the university's Cyber Forensics and Research Education Group Lab will face off against students from schools like Carnegie Mellon, Brigham Young, Penn State, Howard and others at Temple University in Philadelphia on April 12 and 13.

To earn their spot, students had to analyze a fictitious cyber incident and make recommendations on how to prevent it from happening again, said Ibrahim "Abe" Baggili, associate professor of computer science and founder of University of New Haven's cyber forensics lab.

The task involved "hours upon hours" of digging through data and reverse engineering to figure out how hackers penetrated the system and how they were able to remain there once they got in, Baggili said.

"It's extremely challenging when you have a lot of data to look at," said Baggili, the team's faculty advisor. "The students spent over a week and at least four nights of not sleeping to figure this out."

Led by graduate students Peter Gromkowski and Justin Grannis and undergrad Tyler Balon, the team won $5,000 for student, faculty and curriculum development by advancing to the finals in a round that included 22 "very competitive" schools around the country, Baggili said.

Judges deemed the team's incident analysis, content and technical skills "exemplary," the highest rating, Baggili said.

"We're excited that we're moving on to the next phase," said Baggili. "We're in it to win it."

Temple's Institute for Business and Information Technology hosts the competition each year to inspire students to pursue careers in cyber security, officials said. Teams include graduate and undergraduate students studying information systems, computer science and engineering.

Natalie Missakian can be reached at

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