With the addition of the Cybersecurity program to the ECEn department, it’s exciting to see how our department’s reach is growing internationally.
Cybersecurity student Justin Applegate recently made the roster for the US Cyber Games team, a position that is only granted to 30 individuals from around the country. The age limit for the competition is 25 years old, meaning that the competitors are all relatively young, with some even competing while they’re finishing high school! Most people on the team come from the east coast, but Justin and a growing number of people from the midwest and west coast are broadening the team’s geographic size. As of now, Justin is the only competitor from Utah.
The US Cyber Games team was originally created after an invitation by the annual ICC, or International Cybersecurity Competition. The first ICC event was held this past summer in Athens, Greece, where teams representing both countries and geographic regions competed. In partnership with Raytheon Technologies, the CISA, known as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, founded the US Cyber Games team to compete in the ICC.
With the creation of the team, the US has begun competing against other countries’ cybersecurity teams in international events. Next year, Justin will be traveling to Norway to compete against the other European countries in the ECSC, known as the European Cybersecurity Challenge.
Justin’s role as a competitor isn’t just to compete and attend international competitions, however. In addition to traveling, Justin will also compete in dozens of virtual cyber competitions held around the world each month. The US Cyber Games team competes in these both for fun and to boost teamwork, all to prepare for the ICC and ECSC competitions.
Being added to the US Cyber Games roster was a long process in the making. In middle school, Justin was first introduced to programming and computer software by his older brother. He thought cybersecurity and hacking were interesting, but it wasn’t until after his mission that he really was able to pursue these subjects. When he started taking classes again at BYU, he joined the Cybersecurity major and started looking for ways to build his skills and learn more about the industry. After exploring more, Justin found online cybersecurity competitions, such as CTF (Capture the Flag), that proved to be both engaging and exciting. This was exactly the type of excitement that he was looking for.
After attending BYU for 6 months, Justin started becoming more involved in the Cybersecurity Student Association (CSA). When reflecting on his journey towards the US Cyber Games team, he attributes much of his success towards the CSA. The club’s competitions helped him learn more technical skills, and the resources from CSA and the Cybersecurity major provided motivation to make the national team. He quickly met more people interested in the same field of work and later founded BYU’s competitive Capture the Flag team in April of 2021. Within the team, Justin “developed a curriculum to teach new cyber students necessary CTF and other related technical skills… people just started flocking.”
For students interested in Cybersecurity or joining the program, Justin gave a few words of advice. First, he recommends joining the Cybersecurity Student Association. Within the club, they’ve worked hard to provide events, training, and opportunities to practice relevant cybersecurity skills. Second, Justin explained that learning about cybersecurity shouldn’t just stop when you get home from school. He mentioned that “if you're not a self-motivated learner who will apply themselves and get passionate about it, you're going to miss out… getting these skills here in college will make a huge difference in getting a good job out of college.”