UCF-wApril has been an exciting month for the University of Central Florida (UCF) and its College of Engineering & Computer Science faculty and students. Late last month, the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) named UCF a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, an honor that recognizes the strength of the university’s cyber defense programs, curriculum, faculty and students.

Then, only days later, the Collegiate Cyber Defense Club at UCF – also known as HACK@UCF – won their third consecutive National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, a three-day national competition which hosts the top teams from each of the ten regions in the country.

The designation by the NSA and DHS comes under a federal program that’s meant to reduce the vulnerability of America’s information infrastructure by strengthening higher education and research in cyber defense. It brings prestige, as well as additional access to scholarships and research grants. The honor recognizes UCF’s College of Engineering & Computer Science for addressing the critical shortage of professionals with the skills to defend against hackers and cyberattacks by producing top-notch graduates.

Dan Torgler, deputy director for Team Orlando/Joint Training Integration and Evaluation Center and also the chairman for Team Orlando’s cyber team, said, “With UCF and the College of Engineering & Computer Science receiving this esteemed NSA-approved designation, it allows Team Orlando the flexibility to increase our work with them, and take advantage of more opportunities for joint ventures in researching and developing cyber modeling and simulations to train our warfighters.”

“I am so proud of our student champions and our faculty who spend countless hours researching and teaching in this critical discipline that is a part of our daily lives,” said Provost and Executive Vice President Dale Whittaker. “This latest recognition as a National Center of Academic Excellence is a clear testament to the quality of our people and our programs.”

According to Michael Georgiopoulos, dean of the College of Engineering & Computer Science, the club’s success played a role in the designation. “This designation recognizes the successes and cybersecurity expertise of our students and faculty, and our constant focus on the cutting edge of this changing field,” Georgiopoulos said. “It will open a lot of doors for UCF students and faculty, including scholarships and grant opportunities.”