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Can You Hack It?


More than 80 cybersecurity students test their skills in an intense, two-day competition


Hacking isn't always a bad thing. That's especially true at the Central New York Hackathon, a bi-annual event that brings together cybersecurity students from all over CNY to test their skills in team-based challenges.

Utica, NY (11/12/2015)
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Hacking isn’t always a bad thing.
 
That’s especially true at the Central New York Hackathon, a bi-annual event that brings together cybersecurity students from all over CNY to test their skills in fast-paced, team-based challenges. This semester’s Hackathon was held at Mohawk Valley Community College on Nov. 6 and 7. More than 80 students participated, including 16 from Utica College, making it one of the largest Hackathons in recent history. 
 
The event kicked off on Friday evening with presentations from five cybersecurity experts in several different fields, including cyber professionals from the US Air Force. The competition began Saturday, when participants were grouped by skill level (novice, intermediate, and expert) and divided into teams with an equal number of students at each level. Advanced students were named team leaders.

In three events, teams tackled a wide range of cybersecurity challenges designed by volunteers from the Air Force Research Lab and local industry professionals. The exercises were created to test students' skills in various areas of cybersecurity, including vulnerability detection and wireless network security. The last challenge: a cybersecurity version of Capture the Flag, where teams raced to gain access to others teams’ sensitive data. 
 
UC senior Kevin Stone has participated in the event for the past four years. This year, he served as a team leader, which meant his role was to instruct and advise his teammates—without touching a mouse or keyboard.
 
“It was a little frustrating,” says Stone. “But it was good training for how to be an effective leader. I had to be patient and help them solve problems.” 
 
For Stone, the fun is in working with students from other schools — and from various cybersecurity backgrounds. “Everyone has a different way of doing things, and it’s interesting to see how other students approach the challenges.”
 
Next semester, the CNY Hackathon will be hosted by Utica College, and it’s shaping up to be even bigger: Students from Clarkson University, Morrisville State College, LeMoyne College, and Hamilton College have expressed interest in attending. Exact dates have yet to be determined, but Stone is looking forward to experiencing his last hackathon as a UC student on his home turf.

"Every year the event gets bigger and bigger," he says. "It's exciting to be a part of that."
 

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