Florida Tech Students Break Into the World of Competitive Cybersecurity, One Hack at a Time

Florida Tech News

Competition is down to the wire, with just minutes remaining when the solution strikes you. (Florida Tech image)

BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Competition is down to the wire, with just minutes remaining when the solution strikes you.

You race to decode a cryptic image and spend the last 30 seconds hastily deciphering Morse code while your teammate enters it as quickly as his fingers can type.

Other times, it’s 3 a.m., and you realize you’ve been staring at the same piece of code for eight hours.

Such is the nature of cybersecurity, and Josh Connolly loves it.

Josh, who will graduate with a computer engineering bachelor’s degree in May, is president and founder of FITSec, Florida Tech’s cybersecurity competition team.

When Josh enrolled at Florida Tech in 2016, he assumed a cybersecurity team already existed at the university. It didn’t.

“I was disappointed, and I thought, ‘Well, if there’s not an organization already, there needs to be one,’” Josh says.

“I had never competed before. I had very little technical ability, and I never really wanted to lead an organization—it has never been my style—but I recognized the need and decided, ‘Let’s do this.’”

In 2019, Josh created FITSec with a group of three or four of his computer engineering peers, atypical for cybersecurity competition teams, which usually consist of computer science students.

Josh quickly recognized the need to hone the team’s focus on just one competition type, deciding on CTF due to its more transferable skill set and greater competition frequency.

In CTF competitions, teams or individuals complete as many of the posed challenges as possible in an allotted time frame, usually 48 hours.

Challenges incorporate topics like open-source intelligence, cryptography, log analysis, network traffic analysis, enumeration/exploitation and more.

After completing a challenge, competitors retrieve a “flag,” which they then turn in…