Student Spotlight: RIT Dubai team competes in cybersecurity competition finals

The RIT Dubai CPTC team. From left: Michael Nlend, fourth-year computing security student; Aseel Babhair, fourth-year computing security student; Dristi Dinesh, third-year computing security student; Omar Yassin, third-year computing security student; and Christabelle Alvares, third-year computing security student.

RIT is hosting the International Final for the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC) this weekend, Nov. 22-24. Two RIT teams, one from RIT Dubai and the other from RIT’s main campus, have been selected as part of the top 10 teams that will compete in the final. Aseel Babhair, a fourth-year computing security major, is one of the students competing on the RIT Dubai team.

Starting at RIT five years ago, the CPTC is the premier offense-based collegiate computing security event. The competition helps students practice the skills needed to pursue a career in the cybersecurity industry. During the event, students will attempt to break into computer networks, evaluate the weak points and present a more effective cybersecurity plan.

This is the first year that Babhair, from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has taken part in the competition, and he is serving as vice captain of the team. He and his five teammates are eager to take advantage of this learning opportunity. After he graduates, Babhair hopes to pursue a career in cybersecurity.

Learn more on the CPTC website.

What are your responsibilities as a team member of the RIT Dubai penetration testing team?

I am mainly involved in testing Linux-based machines and web services that are found within the network. Linux is the most common open source operating system for computer software. As a vice captain, some of my other responsibilities involve managing training sessions for the team and splitting responsibilities between our members depending on their strengths and the requirements of the competition.

Can you explain what your team does during a competition?

We start by gathering as much information as we can about the current systems that are running, the network architecture and the services that we will be working with. After gathering what we can, we start to develop a plan on how to assess the vulnerabilities and issues with all these systems. Our main goal is to stress test these systems and services to the best of our ability and create and present a professional report with all of our findings.

What was your reaction when you learned your team placed in the top 10 teams for the international final?

We got really excited since we are facing the best of the best of cybersecurity students during the international final. This is an opportunity to judge our skill level against other teams and see how our abilities compare to others at an international level. We are very excited to compete and are confident in our skills and team.

Why do you think participating in competitions like this is important for students?

Competitions like these give students the ability to apply what they learn within their classrooms to real-life situations. It also helps students to develop a better idea about themselves and their strengths in different sectors of cybersecurity.

How do you think an experience like this will help you with your career once you graduate?

The CPTC is seen as a one-of-a-kind experience. Very few organizations, to my knowledge, develop such a format that takes a complete real-world situation and restructures it into a competition. The real-world aspect gives us, the students, a taste of what it's like to work on a real penetration testing project. So, the approach we take to the competition becomes vastly different from the approach we take to a homework assignment, along with the professionalism that comes with it. I believe this then becomes an asset for us students who partake in the competition, as it will help us have some sort of real-life work experience that we can carry with us to the start of our careers once we graduate.

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