ICS senior Howard Chen has set out to build a competitive cybersecurity club and team for all UCI students.
While he was still a student at Mt. San Antonio College, one of the largest community colleges in California, Howard Chen was an active member of the school’s National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC), a competitive student cybersecurity team.
Chen transferred to UCI during the 2017 winter quarter and, within a few weeks of starting his life as an Anteater, sought out the campus CCDC team – only to find there wasn’t one.
“I was really surprised there wasn’t a team,” said Chen. “The only logical next step was to fill out the paperwork and create one.”
While going through the motions of creating a new team and competing in other cybersecurity competitions along the way, Chen met more students who were interested in this emerging field and the idea to found Cyber @ UCI was born. Under the faculty guidance ofRichert Wang, a computer science lecturer, Chen began his quest to create a competitive cybersecurity team and a club to support it.
“Lots of people are interested in cybersecurity right now; it’s a buzz word,” said Chen. “Terms like cryptography have become sexy and there’s a good reason for it. Cybersecurity and information security are rapidly growing industries with high paying salaries, which is why UCI needs a devoted club and team.”
He added, “The best part about Cyber @ UCI is that it’s open to everyone. You don’t need to have a computer science background or be an ICS major. All you need is interest in cybersecurity and basic training, which is what we are providing.”
Last quarter Cyber @ UCI hosted a two-part workshop series on binary exploitation by Stephen Crane, a computer security Ph.D. candidate and entrepreneur at UCI’s The Cove, as well as the organization’s first capture-the-flag competition Crypto Crackdown. They even got their first corporate sponsor, Hacker Stickers.
Chen is currently working on a lecture workshop track aimed at teaching students the fundamentals of systems administration and basic cybersecurity principles. He plans to expand this into a quarter-long course offered either through his club’s faculty adviser or via UTeach.
In addition to being a full-time computer science major, Chen works as a part-time developer operations contractor for California Community Colleges. This experience has given him additional insight into how his club can operate as a feeder organization for the cybersecurity labor market.
Chen stressed that the importance of Cyber @ UCI is to not only fill a need on campus, but because “we have a major workforce gap right now in the industry. Part of our goal is to build a bridge for students since Irvine is a hiring hub,” he said.
Cyber @ UCI is registered as a campus club, however it is not yet considered an official ICS club until its constitution and membership goals have been formally revised and reviewed. Cyber @ UCI currently has around 15 members, but Chen is hoping to recruit more individuals by the end of the 2017 academic calendar.
“In two years, I want Cyber to be an official ICS club and I want a competitive cybersecurity team operating out of UCI,” said Chen. “Having a school of computer science means we should be able to kick butt. The skills and knowledge base are all present — we just need to put them together.”