Students choose George Mason University for a variety of reasons. Computer science sophomore Jax Dunfee came to Mason because of its strong competitive cyber club. Dunfee’s interest in competitive cyber began in high school and has continued into his college years. “When I was looking for colleges, I saw that Mason had a competitive cyber team. So, I investigated it, thought it was cool, looked into it more, and joined when I got here. I've always been into cybersecurity and competitive cyber is a great way to improve my skills.”
The Mason Competitive Cyber (MCC) club is open to all and though it mostly comprises students in technical majors, the club welcomes everyone. The group meets twice weekly—virtually on Wednesdays and in person on Fridays. The Friday meeting sometimes includes presentations or talks from industry sponsors or professionals.
The club also competes in person at events sponsored by other universities like Virginia Military Institute and Virginia Tech. In September, MCC hosted its own international Capture the Flag (CTF) event that attracted more than 3,000 participants and over 1,600 teams. If you’re looking for the heart and soul of MCC, you’ll find it at CTFs. They’re also one of the best ways to learn about hacking and cybersecurity.
“The events are how we put theory in practice,” said Dunfee. “In classes, a lot of times you learn programming that builds a baseline for what you'll be doing in the industry, but frequently you don't have a lot of time to do that--put that theory into practice. But with CTF you get hands-on activities with your teammates and others.”
Dunfee describes CTF as a variety of challenges that can range from web app exploitation, binary exploitation, cryptography, or reverse engineering forensics. Teams receive a challenge and a description, that they must solve and then get a flag, and the flags are redeemed for points. The team with the most points wins.
Students who are interested in learning more about MCC can check out the website or attend one of the meetings. “We’re always looking for members,” said Dunfee. No experience necessary.