Citadel cadets show off cyber skills during the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition, winning 2nd place overall

The Citadel is celebrating another success in the cyber field. Cadets from the Department of Cyber and Computer Sciences recently placed 2nd in the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition and 1st in Hack Warz, a capture-the-flag style hacking competition.

The Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition, or PCDC, was held on April 13 – 15. PCDC is an event that helps promote cyber security education and awareness. Hack Warz was part of PCDC, where the cadets leveraged tools available to them to find and exploit vulnerabilities in different operating systems.

This victory was secured through relentless hard work, which included extra homework, practices and overall organization.

Those involved in PCDC were Cadets Dylan Acosta, Kirin Chaplin, Slateon Frederick, Dalton Hazelwood, Noah Klepper, Joshua McKinley and Tobias Wood. The cadets who participated in the Hack Warz competition were Acosta, Frederick, Hazelwood, Klepper, McKinley and Wood. 

“These students gave up nearly every open weekend and many nights to perform their best. If our students did not commit themselves to the department, program and each other, we would not be here. There were so many students inspired by the underclassmen that we had to create a merit list to rank who can fill the next teams,” said Frederick. “This is no longer a team or club that only emphasizes skill — we now have a mentorship piece that bridges the skill gap between our club members to becoming team members. Dalton and I are so proud of how far our team has come.”

For Klepper, a sophomore Computer Science and Cyber Operations major, PCDC was the first cyber defense competition that he had participated in. While the competition consisted of enumerating, hardening and defending services, he focused on hardening machines, detecting intrusions and attempting to break back into machines that his team had been kicked out of by the “red team” — the group attacking their services during the competition. Klepper’s favorite part of being part of the cyber program at The Citadel is the bond he shares with his classmates.

“We are all competitive and driven to learn, but I know if I ever need help with a class or understanding a topic, all I have to do is ask and a classmate or upperclassmen will be there to help. I would advise any potential cadet to consider getting a degree in cyber or computer science to take advantage of every opportunity the department offers. Even if it seems beyond your abilities, you can’t lose by trying. If you fail, you will have learned something, and who knows, you may just find your next passion in the field,” said Klepper. “Find a topic that you are passionate about and really dive into it on your own, while finding a professor who is an expert in that topic and using them as a resource to aid your learning. I think this is the best way to get the most out of your time here.”

Housed in the Swain Family School of Science and Mathematics, the Department of Cyber and Computer Sciences aims to develop principled leaders knowledgeable in cyber and computer sciences to meet the needs of the 21st century through education, research, experiential learning and service activities.

“The Department of Cyber and Computer Sciences always gives emphasis on experiential learning. Our students participate in various cyber competitions throughout the year. By participating in cyber competitions like PCDC and Hack Warz, students apply the skills they learn in the classroom to solve challenges that are related to real-world problems in the cyberspace,” said Shankar Banik, Ph.D., professor and department head for the Department of Cyber and Computer Sciences. “This experience helps our students prepare to join the cyber workforce on day one after graduation. Obtaining 1st place in Hack Warz and 2nd place in PCDC demonstrates the quality of our cyber programs, faculty and students.”

The Citadel has been named Best Public College in the South by U.S. News & World Report for 13 consecutive years and the Number 1 Best Public College for Veterans in South for six years.