Science & Technology

UWF Cybernauts, Florida Cyber Range shine at ITEN WIRED Summit

A team of seven University of West Florida students, the UWF Cybernauts, won first place at the ITEN WIRED Summit Cyber Defense and Incident Response Competition on Wednesday at the Hilton on Pensacola Beach. Teams from UWF, Pensacola State College, University of South Alabama and Navy Information Operations Command Pensacola participated in the competition.

Each team responded to scripted attacks while trying to ensure key services, such as the website and email, remained available. The teams drafted incident reports stating when the attacks occurred and how they handled them.

The UWF Cybernauts were comprised of Samuel Austin, David Benenati, Sam Janicki, Sammy Lewandowski, Lance Stammer, Thomas Thibaut and Cody Mahaffey. Anthony Pinto, lecturer in the UWF Department of Computer Science and faculty fellow in the Center for Cybersecurity, mentored the students.

The UWF Cybernauts detected and mitigated 46 percent of cyberattacks and distinguished themselves as the only team to keep all network services available throughout the event and launch a counterstrike against attackers.

“It was a team effort applying all we’ve learned to harden our systems and monitor the attacks as they occurred,” said Mahaffey, UWF team captain. “We were super excited to win. The other teams provided us really good competition.”

Mahaffey credited UWF cybersecurity courses, Cyber War Gaming and Computer and Network Security, as well as Cyber Club practice sessions for preparing the students for the competition.

Metova CyberCENTS administered the competition using the Florida Cyber Range, which was created through a partnership with the UWF Center for Cybersecurity and debuted at ITEN WIRED. The simulator provides advanced training and testing solutions for academic, government, military and industry organizations through cybersecurity exercises, competitions, conferences, operations and research.

The Florida Cyber Range performed without any issues and attracted standing-room only crowds for the training sessions and competition.

“Overall, it was a positive experience,” Mahaffey said. “It has nice automated traffic, so it obscures the attacks.”

The Florida Cyber Range debuted on Tuesday to support hands-on training for ransomware and phishing, held as part of the ITEN WIRED conference and led by Kevin Hofstra, chief technology officer for Metova CyberCENTS.

Hofstra presented the ransomware and phishing sessions in the morning. Hofstra used Petya and CryptoLocker, two forms of ransomware, for the malware presentation.

“Once you’ve been hit, consider yourself compromised and wipe your computer,” Hofstra said.

Charlie Henderson, a teacher at Bailey Middle School, described the phishing session as eye-opening.

“It’s crazy how easy it is for somebody with your email address to send out multiple phishing attacks,” Henderson said. “The complexity of the attacks is improving at an alarming rate. Every time we learn how to stop one attack a new method has been generated.”

For more information on the UWF Center for Cybersecurity, visit

For more information on the Florida Cyber Range, visit