UB students driven toward cyber security success

UB's Cyber Defense Team sits around a table covered in computers and paperwork at a cyber defense competition.

UB's 2018 Cyber Defense team. From left to right: Stefan Jagroop, Vincent Bruno​, Ross Ventresca, Jered Geist, Nicholas Brase, Grant Fowler, Stephen James, Paul Prawdzik

Published August 29, 2018 This content is archived.

by Grace Golabek

In 2018, UB’s Cyber Defense team made it to the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition at Disney World in Florida.




UBIT Student Ambassador Grace Golabek.

Grace Golabek (UB student, Class of 2019) is a Business major with a minor in Mandarin Chinese. After graduating from UB, she hopes to attend law school, pursue a career as a civil rights attorney, and revive the trend of pink business suits. A Hamburg, NY native, Grace enjoys conspiracy theories and writing.

From humble beginnings

A cyber defense competition can be intense—teams are often tasked with taking ownership of an entire existing IT system, and only have hours to get their bearings before defending it from cyber attacks.

When David Murray put out a call for students to join the new group in 2009, they weren’t prepared for the rigors of competition.

“We were way out of our league,” said David Murray, Clinical Associate Professor with UB’s School of Management, and a founding mentor for the group.

But the team began to improve with each year, thanks to the determination of its members, and a growing support team of former students and UB faculty and staff mentors.

UB student Stephen James works at a row of laptops.

UB student Stephen James

Students directing students

The student-run group is supported by Murray, as well as UB alumnus Chris Crawford and Kevin Cleary, UBIT Systems Software Manager.

But the group of eight students is largely self-sufficient, and the students are remarkably passionate. Some former students have taken on more instructional roles so they can “give back,” by teaching other students the material they mastered through the competitions.  

The level of commitment to this philosophy is shown through other events the students host independently. They have started their own cyber security competition, called Lockdown, in which local schools participate.

They have also received President’s Circle funding through Ceisare to design a cyber security competition for high school students.  

UB student.

UB students Ross Ventresca, Vincent Bruno and Jered Geist

Why is learning cyber security valuable?

The field of cyber security is a growing one, and there is no shortage of jobs available for those with specialized knowledge. That’s why this program is so indispensable.

“There is a little bit of cyber security for everyone,” Cleary said. “The team makeup reflects that of the industry itself.” Students on the team come from various backgrounds and disciplines.

Cleary added, “A well-rounded team is essential, because the competitions consist of real-world business problems that the students engage with.”

Through this program, students develop teamwork and collaboration skills, learn how to react in high pressure situations, and cultivate critical thinking. These skills are invaluable in the field of cyber security, and in many other professional fields. 

And the students’ hard work seems to pay off. According to Murray, most of the students on the team leave the competitions with a few job offers.