University’s Cybersecurity Boot Camp Reaches 1,000 Participants from Around the Globe
The University of New Haven partnered with TryHackMe.com to offer TryHackCIT, a comprehensive cybersecurity program for beginners that attracted individuals from six continents, enabling them to learn from experts in the cybersecurity field.
September 30, 2020
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing & Communications
Karrie LeDuc-Santoro ’23 was excited to participate in the University of New Haven’s TryHackCIT program, a “cybersecurity boot camp” featuring a virtualized lab infrastructure. A cybersecurity and networks major, she was most looking forward to learning new skills and deepen her knowledge of the cybersecurity field.
“My favorite part was getting to know students and professionals in the field,” she said. “It was a great opportunity, and it was wonderful to learn more about what they are doing in the field.”
LeDuc-Santoro was one of the thousand participants from around the world who took part in the innovative program that was a collaboration of the University and TryHackMe.com. The program brought together graduate, undergraduate, and high school students, as well as professionals in the field.
“The program included a plethora of topics, from steganography to learning to use the basics of a network to hacking into a security system,” said she explained. “While some people abuse the information on the internet, there is just as much information out there that you can use to help others rather than harm them. This is one of my favorite things about cybersecurity because I would like to believe that, one day, I'll be able to help others using the knowledge that I have.”
‘We wanted to offer something exciting'
Created to be accessible to beginners, the University partnered with TryHackMe.com, an online platform that teaches cybersecurity through hands-on virtual labs, to create the weeklong program that was offered free of charge. Participants engaged in a daily webinar with cybersecurity experts from the University and TryHackMe.com, tuning in via Twitch, a leading service and community for multiplayer entertainment that the University’s esports and gaming program has partnered with.
After watching interactive demonstrations, participants applied what they learned through hands-on activities and challenges. Ibrahim Baggili, Ph.D., Elder Family Chair, director of the University's Connecticut Institute of Technology, and executive director of the University’s Bergami Cybersecurity Center, served as the keynote speaker. The program culminated in a Capture the Flag competition, an online cybersecurity contest, with challenges based on what the participants had learned.
Every summer, the University’s Tagliatela College of Engineering hosts the GenCyber Agent Academy at the University for incoming high school students, but the program was postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Liberty Page ’91 M.S., coordinator of the University’s bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity and networks, says the University wanted to offer a fun and engaging online program instead.
“Our GenCyber Agent Academy was the inspiration for TryHackCIT,” she said. “We wanted to offer something exciting, something of value, and we are proud to have partnered with TryHackMe.com to offer this opportunity.”
“Prof. Page spoke to me when we had to cancel GenCyber, and I said to her, ‘Let us go big or go home! Let’s have a camp for 1,000 people, and stream it on Twitch live all around the world,’” added Dr. Baggili. “It is gratifying to see this vision come to fruition, thanks to the dedication of so many.”
‘I'll be able to help others’
The program included many members of the University of New Haven community. T.J. Balon ’18, ’21 M.S. played an integral role in orchestrating the event and helped introduce Twitch and Discord, a popular instant messaging and VoIP application. Andrew Mahr '22 built the program website, while others were participants or served as instructors.
The program focused on skills needed for offensive security, including researching, networks, and web fundamentals. Participants joined from around the world, including from Australia, India, Spain, South Africa, and Peru.
The top three in the competition and their online aliases were “tr0x01,” “thepoet,” and Zink. The winners received prizes supported by TryHackMe and DigitalOcean.
“The University of New Haven’s virtual bootcamp proposal to engage and challenge students from all over the world in cybersecurity during an era where everyone is disconnected was really exciting,” said Ben Spring, managing director for TryHackMe.
“Dr. Baggili brought TryHackMe and UNH together, and through several collaborative meetings and a tight deadline, we designed a great six-day ‘zero to hero’ course, Spring continued. “TryHackMe allowed students to hack real-world machines, all through the browser, with supporting learning content through fun and gamified lessons, which enabled TryHackCIT participants to put their theoretical knowledge into practice.
“The event had a great impact on students all over the world, giving them wide exposure to different areas of cybersecurity,” he added. “It was a privilege to work with the University. They have a fantastic and enthusiastic team, and we wouldn't hesitate to work with them again."