It has been said that the best defense is a good offense. So, although many cybersecurity experts and firms go to great lengths to defend themselves from attack, the idea of “offensive security” has become an important component in computer science.
On Jan. 7-10, a squad of Cal State Fullerton students had a chance to test its offensive capabilities by competing in the National Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition. Junior-high snickering that the name conjures aside, the tournament is one of the top collegiate cybersecurity competitions in the country.
Corporations and countries are always looking to build a better mousetrap, and the mice — or hackers — will always look for new ways to beat, circumvent, infiltrate or otherwise disable them.
As a result, offensive security studies approach the field from a hacker’s perspective by exploring how to attack systems. There’s even a term in the lexicon: “ethical hacking.”
According to Mikhail Gofman, director of Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Cybersecurity, independent attack-testing companies have become a robust part of the industry and thousands of security jobs are out there, many that pay well.
“This is the kind of skill set that is very much in demand,” he said.
The tournament was created in 2015 and held virtually this year for the first time due to the pandemic. The tourney featured an international field of 15 schools, including Rochester Institute of Technology, Stanford, Cal Poly Pomona, Bournemouth University in England and RIT-Dubai.
A year after failing to make the tournament, the Titans qualified with a fourth-place finish in the Western Regionals behind City College of San Francisco, Cal Poly and Stanford.
Sixty-seven universities from across the globe competed in their respective qualifying competitions.
This year, RIT, the traditional home for the national competition in nonpandemic times, won the title, followed by Stanford and Cal Poly Pomona. Teams out of the top three were not individually named.
In 2018, Fullerton finished in second place in the national finals.
The Titan team will return all but one of its members to school next year.