Cybersecurity Team Continues to Crack the Codes

With a successful round one of the CyberPatriot competition behind them, the Masters Cybersecurity team appears programmed for greatness as its members prepare for the second round next month.

The team of seven — captain Andrew Chang ’22, Dayan Battulga ’23, Mateo Moya Chavez ’23, Sam Felgran ’22, Nataliia Kulieshova ’23, Jackson Manfredi ’22 and Theo Meyer ’24 — which faced off against 5,230 teams from around the country and world, placed in the top 10 percent nationally. 

The annual competition, sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Association, challenges teams of high school and middle school students to find and fix cybersecurity vulnerabilities in virtual operating systems in a six-hour period. Last year, the Masters team finished in the top 10 percent and third overall in New York state during round three. 

Chang’s focus is batch scripting and working the Cisco Packet Tracer, which, he said, “involves tweaking IP addresses, network routing, and configuring device settings and protocols.” As captain, he’s confident that the team’s many areas of expertise will get them placed in the top three teams in New York state again this year. “We have some new members with unique talent,” he explained. 

Nataliia Kulieshova ’23, a newcomer who brings knowledge of the Linux operating system to the team, joined because “Cybersecurity was the first thing that I learned when I became interested in computer science, so testing my knowledge was pretty exciting.” The toughest part of the competition was “working six hours straight on the same problems,” she said, noting that “Often, you don’t know exactly what you are looking for, so it can be upsetting to spend hours trying to solve a task without any result.” But, the junior said, the challenges are well worth the effort: “We are actually learning how to protect our personal laptops and data.” 

Chang agreed: “The knowledge we gain from CyberPatriot is extremely valuable. Cyberattacks pose a serious threat in today’s world.” He also hailed the program for bringing together students who are passionate about computer science and cybersecurity to enhance their skills. “Not only is it a meaningful collaborative experience, but I also love that CyberPatriot allows me to learn more about the settings in the operating system I use and use critical thinking skills to solve interesting security questions.”

Director of Innovation, Engineering and Computer Science John Chiodo, who has guided the team since its inception in 2016, is confident in their prospects this year. “I thought the first round went very well, especially given that we have only two students from last year’s team on the roster. I expect that the team will improve with each round.” 

Until the next round on November 13, the team will be busy strengthening their skills with testing and practice sets. “Hopefully,” Kulieshova said, “in the next round, we will be able to score higher in a shorter amount of time.” 

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