Computer Science News

February 10, 2023

UTSA Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC)


Roadrunner Team from L to R: Julian Peña, Mason Eckenrod, Aditya Dindi, Alex Bryant, Timothy Avram, Jacob Rahimi

In January, the UTSA Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC) cybersecurity competition team continued its remarkable season and traveled to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) located in a cold and snowy Rochester, NY for the CPTC Global Finals. Only 15 teams from around the world qualify for the finals, and this year included teams from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan; and teams from all across the United States – traveling from California, Florida, Texas, and many other states.

During the three days of competition, the students continued their role as cybersecurity assessors from the regional competition, conducting a second hands-on assessment of "The Cozy Croissant" – a fictitious, family-friendly hotel in Reno, Nevada. This was truly a continuing story as the competition organizers updated the systems based on the information in the reports they received from the earlier rounds of competition. This required the students to identify the items that had been fixed, those that had not been fixed properly, and vulnerabilities that still existed. In addition, they went hunting for more vulnerabilities that were spread throughout the hotel infrastructure, which included: video surveillance systems, hotel management software, network segmentation (including public Wi-Fi access), and business systems.

Two unique activities took place outside the cyber realm and in the real world.

  1. The first activity was being given a hotel safe that the teams had to gain access to. There were many approaches taken by the various teams to gain access. Some teams tried to pick the key lock, some tried to use default combinations on the key pad, others tried inserting a wire through the door in an attempt to press a reset button inside the safe, and a few even tried brute force – trying to hit the safe hard enough that the door popped open.
  2. The second unique activity involved one of the competition staff pretending they were a worker at the front desk of The Cozy Croissant and each team having an opportunity to call them on the phone and trick information out of them. This activity is called social engineering.

Each team got to take their safe home after the competition and the UTSA safe will be proudly displayed in the new competition team space.

Aside from the penetration testing activities, the students also had to write a report on their findings and submit it by 11:59 P.M. Saturday night. That meant, after a long day of technical work, the team had to head back to the hotel and spend six hours finishing up their 88-page report – and a presentation as well! The next morning, they had 10 minutes to present their report to the competition sponsors and volunteers, all industry professionals, who took on the role of the board of directors for The Cozy Croissant.

While the team didn’t make it into the top three this year, they learned a lot and are already planning their training for the Fall 2023 competition.

The CPTC team was made up of:

  • Team Captain: Jacob Rahimi, Senior, Computer Science
  • Assistant Captain: Alex Bryant, Sophomore, Computer Science
  • Timothy Avram, Senior, Cyber Security
  • Aditya Dindi, Freshman, Cyber Security
  • Mason Eckenrod, Senior, Computer Science
  • Julian Peña, Freshman, Computer Science

They were also accompanied by two coaches: Benjamin Anderson and John Newsom, both in the Information Systems and Cyber Security department; Ben is also shared with the Computer Science department.

However, while the CPTC season has wrapped up, the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC) season is just starting. The Team Captain for CCDC is Henry Graham, a Junior in Cyber Security, with Jacob Rahimi, a senior in Computer Science, as the Assistant Captain. These two will lead a team of 12 students – 8 on the primary roster and 4 alternates – through the qualifying round in February, with their eye on qualifying for the Southwest CCDC regionals held in Tulsa, OK in March and from there, looking to advance to the National Championship round in April.