Computer Science Students Rank in Cybersecurity Competition

A team of College of Charleston computer science students survived professional hackers, requests from administrators, and the odds to earn third place in the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition.

“We were competing against teams that were from universities that have dedicated career paths in the cybersecurity industry,” says Chad Hobbs, computer science major and team leader. “We also started late, we had three weeks to do what other teams had been doing all semester. But, we refused to quit, even when we fell behind in the rankings, and that is what propelled us forward. In the end it paid off by achieving third place overall!”

Competing teams came from Clemson University, The Citadel, Trident Technical College, Charleston Southern University, University of South Carolina and ECPI as well as from the College. Participating on the College of Charleston team were: Chad Hobbs (attack mitigation), Paul Shahid (Linux server admin), Leo Pate (Windows server admin), Scott Hallman (Windows server admin), Jimmy Roth (database admin), and Tan Nguyen (mail server admin).

The teams of six participated in two challenges: one to operate a small network while protecting it from a team of professional hackers. The other challenge was to respond to everyday business requests, like mail, database and web servers. The competition’s goal was to energize schools and their students to focus on the development of technical skills in the area of networking and cybersecurity in preparation for careers in STEM areas: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“The College of Charleston doesn’t have a major or minor in computer security, but we do a great computer science department in general and strong recruitment of quality computer science students,” Hobbs says. “Dr. Jim Bowring stepped up to be our mentor, Dr. Aspen Olmstead gave us the coursework we needed to get ready for the competition, and Clay McCauley provided us with the software.”

Computer Science Department Head Chris Starr, said, “Kudos to all for representing the College of Charleston and performing so well.” Starr is an avid promoter of the study of computer science by students within the liberal arts environment of the College. He believes that liberal arts students studying computer science bring creativity to problem solving often missing from students in a more traditional engineering program.

Starting in fall 2013, the master’s degree in computer science, which is a joint program between The Citadel and the College of Charleston, will have a specialization in cybersecurity.  The new specialization is currently in the approval process. In addition to core courses, students will take advanced operating systems, privacy and security issues, data communications and networking and advanced cybersecurity to qualify for this specialization.

For more information, contact Chris Starr at