In the News

May 3, 2017

Bringing cybersecurity to the students

ICS senior Howard Chen has set out to build a competitive cybersecurity club and team for all UCI students.

While he was still a student at Mt. San Antonio College, one of the largest community colleges in California, Howard Chen was an active member of the school’s National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC), a competitive student cybersecurity team.

Chen transferred to UCI during the 2017 winter quarter and, within a few weeks of starting his life as an Anteater, sought out the campus CCDC team – only to find there wasn’t one.

“I was really surprised there wasn’t a team,” said Chen. “The only logical next step was to fill out the paperwork and create one.”

While going through the motions of creating a new team and competing in other cybersecurity competitions along the way, Chen met more students who were interested in this emerging field and the idea to found Cyber @ UCI was born. Under the faculty guidance of Richert Wang, a computer science lecturer, Chen began his quest to create a competitive cybersecurity team and a club to support it.

“Lots of people are interested in cybersecurity right now; it’s a buzz word,” said Chen. “Terms like cryptography have become sexy and there’s a good reason for it. Cybersecurity and information security are rapidly growing industries with high paying salaries, which is why UCI needs a devoted club and team.”

He added, “The best part about Cyber @ UCI is that it’s open to everyone. You don’t need to have a computer science background or be an ICS major. All you need is interest in cybersecurity and basic training, which is what we are providing.”

Last quarter Cyber @ UCI hosted a two-part workshop series on binary exploitation by Stephen Crane, a computer security Ph.D. candidate and entrepreneur at UCI’s The Cove, as well as the organization’s first capture-the-flag competition Crypto Crackdown. They even got their first corporate sponsor, Hacker Stickers.

Chen is currently working on a lecture workshop track aimed at teaching students the fundamentals of systems administration and basic cybersecurity principles. He plans to expand this into a quarter-long course offered either through his club’s faculty adviser or via UTeach.

In addition to being a full-time computer science major, Chen works as a part-time developer operations contractor for California Community Colleges. This experience has given him additional insight into how his club can operate as a feeder organization for the cybersecurity labor market.

Chen stressed that the importance of Cyber @ UCI is to not only fill a need on campus, but because “we have a major workforce gap right now in the industry. Part of our goal is to build a bridge for students since Irvine is a hiring hub,” he said.

Cyber @ UCI is registered as a campus club, however it is not yet considered an official ICS club until its constitution and membership goals have been formally revised and reviewed. Cyber @ UCI currently has around 15 members, but Chen is hoping to recruit more individuals by the end of the 2017 academic calendar.

“In two years, I want Cyber to be an official ICS club and I want a competitive cybersecurity team operating out of UCI,” said Chen. “Having a school of computer science means we should be able to kick butt. The skills and knowledge base are all present — we just need to put them together.”

Interested in joining Cyber @ UCI? Check out the club’s Facebook page or stop by its booth next month during ICS Day, where they will be hosting Lock Picking 101 sponsored by Hacker Stickers.

Bringing cybersecurity to the students

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