UMass Dartmouth prepares a new generation of Cyber Warriors


On Saturday, May 3, eight UMass Dartmouth students in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) competed in the Governor’s Cyber Aces State Championship held in Boston. 76 contestants qualified for the championship out of last year’s 1,000+ contestants. Of the top ten champions, four came from UMass Dartmouth: Nolan Paduch (5th place), Elia El Lazkani (6th place), Sean Reid (8th place), and Daniel Noyes (10th place). Others who made it to the championship were Jesse Carter, David Goncalves, Keith Kevelso, and Jonathan Larcom.

All eight ECE BS or MS students took ECE 489/549 Network Security in the Fall and/or ECE403/591 Special Topic: Cyber Threats and Security Management in the Spring, both taught by Prof. Hong Liu. Five of them engaged in cyber security research projects advised by Prof. Liu.

The students endured three rounds of Cyber Aces online qualification tests last October, November, and December, respectively, before being invited to the May 3rd Championship.

“Last year’s activities qualified half of the UMass Dartmouth contestants to this Championship. What is unique about Cyber Aces competition is the year-long learning process with the pros and the pathway building to cyber security careers,” said Prof. Liu. “Last semester’s three rounds of online competitions and the whole day tournament test contestants’ determination, endurance, and persistence – the character and quality required for our nation’s future cyber warriors.”

On the week of May 19, Prof. Liu joined UMass System security staff for a weeklong SANS training course on Critical Security Controls, organized by Lawrence Wilson, Information Security Lead of UMass President’s Office. SANS is the world leading institute for information security training. SANS Twenty Critical Security Controls, fully compliant to national/international standards and widely adopted (including the US Department of Homeland Security), are considered the most effective approach to security.

Dr. Eric Cole, former CIA officer and well-known security expert, delivered the course along with his two assistants.

Liu, Wilson, and Cole share the urgency for college curriculum development of integrated security coding skills to meet the nation’s demand on security personnel. They call for partnership among academy, industry, and government to prepare cyber warriors and to build pathways for their promising careers.

For more information on the Electrical and Computer Engineering program, visit the program website at

By May 28, 2014