COVID couldn’t conquer the University of Virginia’s cyber-defense competition champions.

COVID couldn’t, but a conundrum in the regional contest almost did.

UVa had won the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition for the previous two years running. Team members were looking to defend their title.

“The regionals were challenging; we had issues with our firewall that we were unable to recover from,” team captain Maggie Gates told Raytheon Intelligence & Space, which presents the NCCDC, for an online story.

Virginia lost at regionals. However, this year the competition featured a wild-card category, for which UVa was chosen.

Moving on to the next level, UVa beat out eight other teams to win the national championship for the third year.

Last month’s competition had teams facing a devised scenario in which they had to defend a hypothetical company against a cyberattack.

Raytheon explains that the teams not only had to protect the company against attack — keeping safe its intellectual property, its customers’ personal data and its employees’ personnel records. But they also had to do so while keeping the company’s cyber presence safely up and running — including email, websites, cloud storage and other functions.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the isolation strategies it demanded made that even tougher this year.

“Usually, we’re all huddled in a room together, looking over each other’s shoulders, passing notes back and forth, because communication is key in the competition,” Ms. Gates told Raytheon. “…While the virtual aspect was harder, it was made easier since we all trust each other’s skills and abilities, and if one of us says, ‘I got this,’ then we move onto something else.”

“I got this,” indeed. That combination of teamwork and individual initiative resulted in UVa getting something else: the 2020 national championship.

Congratulations, cyber superstars!

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