Cyber Technophiles produce global ‘most creative cyber security response’

Cyber Technophiles produce global ‘most creative cyber security response’

Even with a panel of over 90 judges, including former FBI officers, US state advisors on cyber security related issues and academicians, southern Africa Cyber 9/12 strategy challenge champions, Malawi University of Science and Technology team, Cyber Technophiles, defied the first time odds to emerge with individual team award of the “Most Creative Policy Response”.

Cyber Technophiles, comprising Bachelor of Science in Computer Systems and Security students Elton Ng’ombe and Abdulraheem Gomani (males) and Tionge Mughogho and Joyce Kaligwenje (females), and coached by lecturer Allan Chongwe, missed out on the top three positions at the two day global finals of the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge in Washington DC.

The top three teams were Cyber Super Girls (CSG) from Stanford University on first position; Golden Mules from United States Military Academy on second, and Keep Comm and Cyber On (KCCO) from Air Command and Staff College in the US on third position.

Apart from the MUST, other individual awards went to Black Knights of the US Military Academy (Best Written Brief) and Duke CyberDevils of Duke University (Best Oral Presentation).

According to Chongwe, the team did well as expected due to several factors but winning the “Most Creative Policy Response” award, one of four on the table, was a massive achievement and an inspiration considering the competition.

“We did not do well in areas such as international relations and international law/policy but did very well in the technical aspect of the cyber scenario at hand. This was obvious as our team was made up of undergraduate Computer Systems and Security students. Our colleagues had postgraduate students and even those in military universities,” said Chongwe this morning just before flying out of Washington DC.  

Held on March 17 and 18 at the American University College of Law, the MUST team battled other 31 teams, 10 of which participated virtually.

“MUST’s Cyber Technophiles was the only African team. The team won the 2022 edition of the regional Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge in Cape Town in September 2022. The event had about 90 judges taking part both virtually and in-person and some of the judges were retired FBI officers with years of practical cyber security experience and could not easily be foiled or convinced with superfluous explanations,” said Chongwe.

“It’s impressive to hear that our team was the only African team in the competition and was able to hold its own against other teams from prestigious universities such as Stanford and Duke. We competed against teams in the US Military Academy which had three different teams not to mention the US Coast Guards. But we know that winning is a mentality and we were as capable as each one them. Despite not making it into the top three based on rankings, we still managed to win the Most Creative Policy Response award showing that we are equally good at such an intimidating and highly competitive international stage.”

Apparently the team performed well in the technical aspect of the challenge unlike in areas such as international relations and policy.

“For us, winning is not always about coming out first, but also in learning experiences gained along the way, the skills developed, and the recognition earned. The award we got is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Cyber Technophiles team. It’s also important to remember that competitions like these are not just about winning or losing, but also about building relationships and fostering a sense of community among cybersecurity professionals. Networking and learning from other teams, especially those from top universities and the military, can provide valuable insights and opportunities for growth,” added Chongwe, saying as a coach, it was important to use the experience to identify areas of improvement and continue building on one’s strengths.

“It’s also valuable to take note of the strategies and tactics used by other teams and incorporate them into our own approaches. For the students, the competition was a great way to gain real-world experience and hone their skills in a challenging and dynamic environment. It’s encouraging to see teams from around the world participating and working together to address the complex cybersecurity challenges we face today.”

Cyber Technophiles was, among others, supported by the Skills for a Vibrant Economy (SAVE) project at MUST and FDH Bank with the project paying for visas and air tickets while the bank contributed towards the team’s upkeep.

The team is expected back in Malawi tomorrow afternoon.