The students, who qualified due to excellent performances in other cybersecurity challenges, will compete worldwide in various competitions while representing the nation.
Two UCF computer science students have made it to the Olympics of collegiate cybersecurity competitions by being drafted as members of the U.S. Cyber Team. As part of the team, they will represent America and compete in thevarious global scrimmages, including the Cyber Games, and the International Cybersecurity Challenge in 2024
Senior computer science major Matthew McKeever and cyber security and privacy graduate student Jeffrey DiVincent ’23 will help represent the U.S. as two of the 30 members on this year’s team, which will compete worldwide in various cyber competition formats, including capture the flag, red vs. blue and hardware challenges. This is the second time McKeever has made the team.
UCF is one of 15 schools who have members on the U.S. Cyber Team this year. The other universities with recruited team members include Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon University, George Mason University, Rochester Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University.
Like any elite athlete, the draftees earned recognition for their talents in the same way — by demonstrating their prowess at numerous cybersecurity competitions, from stateside regional contests to competitions on the world stage.
“The Cyber Games play a strategic role in preparing our cybersecurity workforce for a highly dynamic future created by digital innovations such as AI, quantum technologies or biotech,” said U.S. Cyber Games Commissioner Jessica Gulick in a release. “As we enter our third season, the caliber of cyber talent is advancing, enabling our program to evolve from skills-based to helping athletes practice rapid triage, cognitive endurance, situational awareness and teamwork.”
Both McKeever and DiVincent are members of UCF’s Collegiate Cybersecurity Competition (C3) team, and placed first in the U.S. Department of Energy’s CyberForce Competition over the weekend. They are also members of student organization Hack@UCF.
McKeever, who formerly served as a red team vs. blue team specialist, was recruited as a binary exploitation specialist and is charged with uncovering program vulnerabilities and using them to his team’s advantage. He is one of 17 veterans on the U.S. team, and was drafted last year along with two other UCF C3 team members, siblings Caitlin and Cameron Whitehead.
“Meeting and interacting with the various countries at the competition was enlightening, learning their culture and socializing in general, but more importantly, fun,” he says of his experiences last year. “Everyone was extremely talented and respectful, but also competitive. Overall, it was an amazing experience competing internationally. I learned a lot in cybersecurity and met and befriended many talented cybersecurity experts from across the world.”
DiVincent, a first-time member of the U.S. Cyber Team, says he had a feeling he might get selected.
“I had a sneaking suspicion that I was going to be drafted. The coach that interviewed me was at the Raymond James Capture the Flag cybersecurity challenge I did a few weeks back, and she was super excited to see me and even asked for a selfie,” he says. “But when I officially found out, I was in class, learning about AI, when I just started getting flooded with congratulatory messages. It was surreal.”
Though he is new to the national team, DiVincent has already competed on an international level as a member of the UCF C3 team this year.
“The two things I am most excited about are the ability to learn from some of the county’s best young minds and getting to travel around the world. I love learning, and I love seeing the world,” DiVincent says.
C3 team members have a rigorous training regimen, often putting in hours on weeknights and weekends and traveling to competitions on top of their academic responsibilities. Their coach and associate instructor Tom Nedorost says the team is no stranger to good old fashioned hard work and is committed to practicing, learning and challenging themselves to continually improve.
“UCF is recognized as a cybersecurity powerhouse far beyond campus due to our performance record in multiple cyber competitions every year,” Nedorost says. “We compete in more competitions and practice together as a team than other schools. overall, Over the past 12 years, we’ve brought home 80 first place, 24 second place and 23 third place awards to date.”