INI Student Joins the US Cyber Team
By Evan LybrandMedia Inquiries
INI student Rohan Viswanathan (MS35) has been drafted onto the US Cyber Team for Season III of the international cybersecurity competition. For Rohan, this is the second season he has taken part in the US Cyber Games. After returning from Norway for the final part of Season II, Rohan stopped by to talk about his experience on the team and how the INI impacted it.
Rohan's interest in CTFs and Cybersecurity began during his undergraduate studies. “I was doing computer science at the time, and I realized that I want to do cybersecurity after doing CTF competitions and being part of a cyber club,” said Rohan.
While participating in the cyber club, Rohan learned about the US Cyber Games. “One summer, our cyber club president announced this CTF was happening for the US Cyber Team. And I had never heard of it before.” It was then that Rohan dove headfirst into the competition.
“There is the original qualifier, the US Cyber Open, which is a big CTF. And then they whittle it down to around 120 people and then put them into a sort of training,” Rohan explains, “one week, we are going to work solely on forensics. After that, they are going to give us challenges. They give lectures, have talks, and then do live observations through Zoom to see your thought process as you solve problems. They watch how you go about it.”
"And going to class and learning about stuff really teaches me something different and more technical, which will help me solve problems in the future and get more familiar with how systems work.”
After taking his first steps into cybersecurity, Rohan realized he wanted to further his education and began to do his research. He discussed potential options with one of his professors. “I asked them about what I should do for grad school, and he recommended here (INI). I looked at it. It was very cool.”
Rohan was selected as a member of the US Cyber Team for Season III on October 16, 2023. It is a tremendous accomplishment and an exciting challenge. “It's honestly been incredible. My other team members are very competent in everything in this realm. So, it is nice to see how people solve different problems and how they approach it,” Rohan said upon reflecting on his journey so far.
The challenges presented during the US Cyber Games are difficult and test the knowledge of those looking to win big. Rohan, a Master of Science in Information Security (MSIS) student, was able to utilize the skills and knowledge he has gained in his courses throughout the competition. “I'm in 14-213 (Introduction to Computer Systems) right now. I had basically no systems experience before. And going to class and learning about stuff really teaches me something different and more technical, which will help me solve problems in the future and get more familiar with how systems work.”
Now that Rohan is on the team, he is preparing for two major competitions. This first is the International Cybersecurity Challenge (ICC), followed by the European Cybersecurity Challenge (ECSE). As he prepares for these upcoming competitions, Rohan shared some advice for those interested in getting involved in the US Cyber Games.
“Honestly, just jump into the deep end. When I started cybersecurity, I knew nothing. I knew how to code in Python. That was about it. Even if you do not do well, it is still experience; you are still learning. And retroactively, reading how other people solve those challenges you are struggling with helps build your knowledge base and help you get those types of challenges in the future.”