CfIA Student Highlights 2016

Posted on 2016-11-21

The Center for Information Assurance (CfIA) has established a successful student-centered research environment involving both undergraduate and graduate students in several federal-funded projects. The Center has continually maintained its designation as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CD) and in Research (CAE-R) by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Here are some student success stories for 2016.

CyberSEED 2016 Competition

CyberSEED 2016 CyberSEED 2016 was hosted by the University of Connecticut on October 10-11. Four U of M students attended the CyberSEED Challenge, which included three types of security challenges: (1) capture the flag (CTF), (2) social engineering challenges, and (3) secure coding. The U of M team, named nu11t3st3r, had an outstanding performance, placing 7th of 30 teams from around the country. Competition results are posted at

CANSec Cyber-Defense Competition

U of M students participated in the CANSec (Central Area Networking and Security) cyber defense competition held on October 2 in St. Louis. The team received third place in the one-day event.

2016 NSA Codebreaker Challenges

The NSA Codebreaker Challenge provides students with a hands-on opportunity to develop their reverse-engineering / low-level code analysis skills while working on a realistic problem set. There are six different levels or "tasks" to the challenge, with each one being progressively more difficult and building off of the previous tasks. Our student team has so far solved four of the six tasks.

NSA Research Grant: Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication (A-MFA) System

A-MFAGraduate students Abhijit Nag and John Shrein, along with undergraduates Irfanur Rahman and McKittrick Swindle, participated in the A-MFA project which resulted in a prototype development for Tech Transfer. A patent application has been submitted for this research, and a licensing agreement is underway with a company. A video highlighting the features of A-MFA is available at

NSF Project on Puzzle-Based Learning (PBL)

PBLUndergraduate students Robert Edstrom and Aaron Marshall worked with graduate students on an NSF-funded research project to develop innovative games to teach cybersecurity concepts, enabling critical thinking through solving complex puzzles. A multi-level PBL game has been developed using the Unreal 3D game engine. We demonstrated and distributed the PBL software at three national conferences in 2016 and received excellent feedback on our cybersecurity education research. Further details on this project are available at

U of M Events

Two undergraduate students received awards for their poster presentations at the 12th Annual Computer Science Research Day held in April. Robert Edstrom got 1st place for his research entitled "Puzzle-Based Learning in Cyber Security Education," and Berkeley Willis (with graduate partner Sujit Shrestha) got 3rd place for his research on "Web Application Security Exercise and Testing Platform."