When it comes to cybersecurity, no other university in South Carolina hacked it as well as the College of Charleston last weekend.

That’s because a team from the College’s Cybersecurity Club took home the top prize at the Palmetto Cyber Defense Competition on Sunday, April 10, 2017, at Trident Technical College in North Charleston.

RELATED: CofC Alum Among Co-Founders for Social Media App Yik Yak

Please see pic of team attached. From left to right: Elex Moore (Sophomore), Joshua Yates (Freshman), Jake Schwarztrauber (Senior), Nate Smith (Sophomore), John Anderson (Senior - Team Captain), Blaine Billings (Freshman), and Dr. Xenia Mountrouidou (Assistant Professor of Computer Science).

Members of the College Cybersecurity Club’s team, including Elex Moore (sophomore, left), Joshua Yates (Freshman), Jake Schwarztrauber (Senior), Nate Smith (Sophomore), John Anderson (Senior – Team Captain), Blaine Billings (Freshman) and the team’s mentor, assistant professor of computer science Xenia Mountrouidou.

It’s the College’s first win in the yearly competition, which this year also included teams from Clemson University, the University of South Carolina in Columbia, The Citadel, Claflin University, Trident Technical College, Charleston Southern University and ECPI University.

“The College’s name will now live on the challenge cup plaque along with (prior winners Clemson and USC),” says Cybersecurity Club President John Anderson. “This is a great accomplishment for the College and the Cybersecurity Club and I am so honored to have been a part of it.”

The competition tasked blue teams from each school with protecting a small network from hacker attacks from a red team. Each team was scored for accomplishing tasks and maintaining normal network service such as mail, databases and web servers while also detecting and responding to the hacking threats.

Xenia Mountrouidou, the assistant professor also known on campus as “Dr. X”, was one of the mentors for the team ahead of the competition. She says that the contests teach students how to respond to threats under pressure.

RELATED: Meet CofC’s Ethical Hacker, Dr. X

“These contests help us set clear goals for learning cybersecurity concepts and striving to get better,” she says. “By participating, students learn the security mindset that will be useful to them either in graduate studies, private businesses or federal jobs.”

Students had to work under real-world pressure during the competition, but they had plenty of support from mentors at and outside the College in the lead-up to the event. Alumni Jason Miller ’00 (M.S. ’05) worked as a red team analyst and brought in his boss — Henry Hutson, the network security monitoring team lead at IT security and intelligence firm DGS — to help get the team ready for competition.

“This was team work and we are proud of our students because they put in time outside of their classes, worked hard and persevered,”says  Mountrouidou.

The win also signifies the leadership, support and growth within the Department of Computer Science.

RELATED: CofC’s ‘Dr. X.’ Explores Ocean’s Labryinths 

“This achievement demonstrates that the College of Charleston is building a top cybersecurity emphasis in our computer science department,” she says. “Cybersecurity is one of the highest demand fields currently in CS. In our department, we give a great base in computational thinking, programming, and fundamental computer systems knowledge to our students, therefore they can deliver solutions to cybersecurity and take top demand jobs in the field.”

Professor Sebastian van Delden, the chair of the computer science department, adds that the win signifies something else: that the College is a top destination in the Palmetto State when it comes to learn about cybersecurity.

“This is a testament to Dr. Mountrouidou’s leadership and the ever-increasing talent of our students,” he says. “The competition provides tangible evidence that we are one of the best schools in South Carolina to study cybersecurity.”