CyberSEED Returns in Virtual Format

students at cyberseed

By: Eli Freund, Editorial Communications Manager, UConn School of Engineering

After a postponement last year, the annual CyberSEED event, hosted by Synchrony and The Connecticut Advanced Computing Center (CACC), is back on in a 100 percent virtual format.

CyberSEED 2021, which will take place on March 27, from 8:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m., will host teams from schools all over the United States, who will compete in a Capture the Flag-style competition focusing on a variety of cybersecurity challenges including a set of flags focusing on reverse engineering, web application security, network traffic analysis, cryptography, amongst others on the Cyber Skyline platform.

Student teams of 2-4 people will have the opportunity to win cash prices of between $250 to $3,000, hear from a panel of experts, and also get a chance to meet and hear from Synchrony’s own Chief Information Security Officer Gleb Reznik. The top three winners from last year’s competition included: Drexel University, University of Maryland, and New York University.

Synchrony and UConn Engineering Join Forces to Host CyberSEED 2019

STORRS, CT – During National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Synchrony, a premier consumer financial services company, and The University of Connecticut School of Engineering are joining forces to sponsor CyberSEED 2019, a cyber wargame competition, on Saturday, October 19th from 9am to 5:30pm.

More than forty-two teams from 30 colleges and universities across the country will face off in a variety of challenges that test students’ skills, including: reverse engineering, web application security, network traffic analysis, and cryptography. The grand prize winner will take home $15,000; there will also be two smaller prizes of $2,000 and $500.

Registration for the competition is closed, but registration for a concurrent workshop will remain open through 17 October.

WHAT: CyberSEED – a cyber Capture the Flag competition and Workshop

WHEN: Saturday, October 19th

9:00am – opening remarks

9:30am – competition commences

5:00pm – competition ends

5:30pm – awards and closing

The workshop runs concurrently with the Capture the Flag competition.

WHERE: UConn Storrs Campus — Rome Commons Ballroom


Jeannette Burke (UConn)

Nicole Ward (Synchrony)

Technical (Synchrony)

Michel Appointed Synchrony Financial Chair for Cybersecurity

By: Eli Freund, Editorial Communications Manager, UConn School of Engineering

Luarent Michel (left) and Stephen Altschuler
Photos from an event for the new Altschuler Cybersecurity Lab taken Wednesday, October 16, 2019 at UConn Information Technologies Engineering Building in Storrs. (G.J. McCarthy / UConn Foundation)

The UConn School of Engineering is pleased to announce the appointment of Laurent Michel, a professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department, as the next Synchrony Financial Chair for Cybersecurity. Michel’s appointment was approved by the UConn Board of Trustees during their meeting on December 11, 2019.

The position, established by a generous donation from Synchrony Financial in 2016, is aimed at supporting a leader focused on the advancement of education and research in cybersecurity. In addition to the endowed professorship, Synchrony Financial also has a presence in the UConn Tech Park, with the Synchrony Financial Center of Excellence, which is currently led by Michel.

Michel is an internationally recognized expert in the area of cybersecurity and received a B.S. and an Sc.M. in computer science from “Les Facultes Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix” (‘93) in Namur, Belgium. He later received Sc.M. (‘96) and Ph.D. (‘99) degrees in computer science from Brown University.

He is an elected member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering and has served his professional field as the President for the International Association for Constraint Programming (2015-2018). At UConn, Michel currently serves as the Director of the Synchrony Financial Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity, as co-Director of the Comcast Center of Excellence for Security Innovation, and as co-Director of the Connecticut Cybersecurity Center. His work has been continually funded by federal and state agencies and by industry, including Comcast, Alstom Grid, ISO New England and others. His work in automation, resource allocation, configuration and side-channel attacks are directly pertinent to many industries, including financial, transportation, health care, and manufacturing. Michel is a leader of outreach and community engagement, organizing activities such as the CyberSEED competition for young, aspiring computer scientists held at UConn. He remains engaged with the State of Connecticut as a founding member of the Voting Technology Research Center, which allowed the State to become a leader in election security. He has co-authored 2 monographs, edited 1 book, has published more than 100 articles, and served as Associate CSE Department Head from 2014 to 2018.

For more information on Michel and his work, please click here to be brought to his academic page.

Cybersecurity Contest Challenges Teams to Think Like a Hacker

By William Weir

(UConn Today)

Computer hackers descended upon UConn this past week, and for their efforts, came away with more than $100,000 in prize money.

Teams from 43 colleges including UConn gathered at the Lewis B. Rome Commons Ballroom to take part in various challenges at CyberSEED, a two-day cybersecurity conference that also featured speakers and panel discussions. Rear Adm. David Simpson, chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, gave a talk about the state of national and international cybersecurity.

The conference, which took place Oct. 21-22, was organized by the Center of Excellence for Security Innovation (CSI), a partnership between Comcast and UConn School of Engineering’s Center for Hardware Assurance, Security, and Engineering (CHASE). It was the first of what is planned to be an annual event.


University of New Haven team members discuss strategy in the Capture the Flag competition, during a two-day cybersecurity conference organized by the Center of Excellence for Security Innovation, a partnership between Comcast and the UConn School of Engineering’s Center for Hardware Assurance, Security, and Engineering. (Christopher LaRosa/UConn Photo)

The competitions featured both software and hardware challenges, but the most popular was Capture the Flag. Here, teams hacked away at classified files of the fictitious country Cyberia, acting on behalf of the small neighboring nation Sanctus Pirata. The files provided details of the country’s oil rigs, allowing the smaller nation to tap into them if successful.

Teams came from as far as Washington State and New Mexico. Some were veterans of hacking competitions, others complete novices. Coming to UConn for their first hacking competition, East Tennessee State University flew into Connecticut at 2 a.m. Energy drinks and coffee figured heavily in their strategy. Their coach, computer science professor Mike Lehrfeld, said the team members had spent much of the past few weeks discussing strategies and different scenarios they might encounter.

“The competition allows them to showcase what they’ve worked on all year long,” he said.


The team from Syracuse University hacks away for classified files in the Capture the Flag competition. (Christopher LaRosa/UConn Photo)

In the end, it was Brown University who took top honors based on speed and the number of documents uncovered. They won $15,000 for first place. Overall, more than $100,000 was awarded to winning teams. No one went away empty-handed: every participant received a Samsung tablet.

So how do you prepare for a hacking competition?

“Lots of YouTube video, lots of Googling,” said Andrew Rector, a senior with the team from Bloomsburg University in central Pennsylvania. Even though they were taking on the role of the bad guys, he said, “these kinds of efforts will pay off for the good guys. You need to know how a system is vulnerable before you can protect it.”

Indeed, conference speaker Cheri Caddy, director of cybersecurity policy integration and outreach at the White House, told the audience that security efforts have lagged because of a lack of training in the field.

Michael Garvin, senior manager of product management for Symantec, was one of the architects of the Capture the Flag competition. They devise their games partly by current events – who’s committing cyberattacks and why – and from feedback from companies who want to protect their security.

These competitions, he said, are a way of identifying vulnerabilities in a company’s computer system.

“We’ll ask companies ‘What is it that you’re worried about?’ Then we can prevent those things from happening, or lessen the amount of damage,” he said. “We’ve seen some interesting and novel methods in these competitions – all the better to help us prepare.”