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AUS students tackle cybersecurity issues in CPTC national competition
Putting their cybersecurity skills to the test, a student team from American University of Sharjah (AUS) competed in the national Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC) recently held at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.
Organized on a regional and national level, CPTC is a cybersecurity competition that prepares college students for careers in the field through real-world challenges, feedback from industry professionals and networking opportunities. The competition helps students identify and report risks, address problems and complete tasks in real-time, similar to a professional environment in the cybersecurity industry.
Securing second place in the competition's Middle East regional category qualified the students for the national competition, during which they faced the challenging task of performing a penetration test on a realistic corporate network, which included multiple subnets and a dozen hosts with unique technology stacks and services. The competition also required social engineering attacks, physical pen testing and extensive report writing followed by a presentation to high-level executives, all within a span of three days.
Competing teams were evaluated based on three key components: technical vulnerabilities, professionalism and communication skills. In the regional competition, the winning team comprised AUS computer science student Omar Safwat, AUS computer engineering students Hassan Abouelela, Adham Elmosalamy and Syed Arfan, and AUS economics student Ahmad Ayman. Despite facing tough competition, Safwat, Abouelela, Elmosalamy and Ayman were able to reach the final stage of the national competition held in New York.
Ayman stated that participating in the competition allowed the team to delve into the realities of working in the industry. He noted: “We experienced the adrenaline rush of meeting last-minute deadlines, honed our communication and teamwork skills by tackling unconventional challenges, and most importantly, learned how to build a professional network and navigate the social landscape of the industry. These experiences have equipped us with a deeper understanding of what it takes to succeed in the field.”
The team worked under the supervision of Dr. Ra'afat Abu-Rukba from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the College of Engineering (CEN) and Yousef Awad, security consultant at Malcrove and a 2021 AUS computer engineering graduate.
Awad emphasized that AUS’ computer science program equips students with the skill set needed to thrive in today’s rapidly changing world.
“Thanks to the unwavering support of AUS, and in particular, Dr. Fadi Aloul, the Dean of CEN, AUS provided me with a motivating environment to excel in my career and achieve my professional goals. I am grateful for the opportunities that were made available to me. I believe that it is our responsibility to give back to AUS by supporting its students in their own endeavors, and I am proud to have had the chance to supervise a winning team. AUS' commitment to its students and alumni is truly remarkable, and I am honored to be a part of its community,” said Awad.
Elmosalamy praised CPTC for providing a stimulating cybersecurity competition.
"We've participated in numerous cybersecurity competitions, but none have been as realistic as CPTC. CPTC's dedication to education was evident in the feedback we received from industry professionals on every aspect of our performance. This feedback was invaluable in helping us improve our skills and understanding of the field.”
He also encouraged other students to get involved with this annual competition.
He added: “We are impressed with our eagerness to participate in the upcoming CPTC, and we are actively seeking passionate and committed cybersecurity students to join our team. If you are someone who shares our passion for cybersecurity and is looking for a challenging and rewarding opportunity, we would love to hear from you."
American University of Sharjah's computer science programs are designed to align with the UAE's National Cybersecurity strategy, which aims to create a safe and strong cyberinfrastructure in the UAE that enables citizens to fulfill their aspirations and empowers businesses to thrive.
To learn more about CEN programs, please visit www.aus.edu/cen.