This story was originally published as a video transcript by the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management (ECC) TV.
When it comes to cybersecurity, the members of the Usr0 Club at Chico State are some of the best, and they’ve proved it multiple times in competition.
The team has now finished among the top 10 teams for five consecutive years at the National Cyber League Team Competition (NCL), including a third place finish out of 779 teams this past fall.
“It’s great to have students that are not only capable but also incredibly motivated to do well in these competitions,” said David Zeichick, faculty advisor for the Usr0 Club and computer science professor in the Department of Computer Science.
Despite the difficult challenges, computer science major and team member Jacob Pawek said the team gave the competition its all, and the work paid off.
“It felt pretty good, ending up high on the leaderboard. . . . We were neck and neck with some of the other teams, but we really went into it with the intention of trying to finish everything that we could, and we got pretty close,” Pawek said.
The competition takes place over the course of a weekend, from Friday evening through Sunday. Teams are given between 30 and 40 problems from numerous distinct categories to crack and work out, such as network trafficking and password cracking, finishing as many as they can.
“When we were first starting, we tried to delegate each person to work on a specific subject. Then once we cleared off some of the easier questions, we kind of converged and worked on the harder ones together,” Pawek said.
The Wildcats did so well that the team was invited to a similar competition, consisting mainly of industry professionals. Out of 25 teams, Chico State finished second in the first round of the competition and third in the second round, beating out teams from companies like Pinterest, Facebook, and Uber.
Zeichick had no doubt that the team would do really well, but he said he was pleasantly surprised to see that “industry professionals somewhat struggled a little bit behind this team.”
Pawek views this accomplishment as an affirmation of the students’ abilities to perform at a professional level.
“It’s something we can bring up in an interview or a discussion with a recruiter, as experience that we had, and show that we were able to compete at an industry standard,” he said.
With such incredible talent, it should come as no surprise that Chico State came in ranked No. 1 in the most recent Cyber Skyline and NCL Cyber Power Rankings for colleges and universities.
“It’s definitely awesome to see the Chico State name being up there on top and just know that I was a part of what brought us to that level,” said Tony Buranzon, computer science major and team member.