CyberStart is an online game for problem-solvers who welcome a challenge. Open to all Syracuse University students, CyberStart offers an opportunity to learn more about the cybersecurity profession, test your problem-solving skills and learn new technology.

During this year’s kickoff event, students had the opportunity to try out 12 challenges. Students interested in continuing then signed up for the semester-long competition with prizes for top finishers and random drawings for participants who complete a minimum number of challenges.

In the inaugural competition, College of Engineering and Computer Science graduate student Weiling Wang G ’21 won CyberStart by more than 10,000 points.

“CyberStart reinforced my enthusiasm and passion for cybersecurity,” Wang said. “After [CyberStart], I also participated in some other capture the flag competitions. What I learned from these competitions will help me pursue my career in cybersecurity.”

After winning the CyberStart competition, Wang joined Syracuse University’s Security Operations Center (SOC) as a student employee and currently works as a security engineer at TikTok.


Top Scorers (as of Dec. 2, 2022)

  1. MD                        107,700 points
  2. CynicalPotato    104,300
  3. Sean Shin              81,500


1st place: LinkedIn six-month Premium membership, a Packt security book, a Cyber Mentor course voucher, Black Hills Backdoors and Breaches security card game

2nd place: LinkedIn six-month Premium membership, a Packt security book, a Cyber Mentor course voucher

3rd place: LinkedIn six-month Premium membership, a Packt security book

Those outside of the top three but earning more than 20,000 points will be entered into a random drawing to win a:

  • LinkedIn six-month Premium membership
  • Packt security book
  • Cyber Mentor course voucher
  • Black Hills Backdoors and Breaches security card game


LinkedIn logo
packt logo
Black Hills Information Security logo
TCM Security logo


What is CyberStart?

CyberStart is a program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and developed by the SANS Institute to identify and train the cybersecurity professionals of the future. CyberStart’s overall mission is to rapidly eliminate the cybersecurity skills gap in the United States by providing scholarships for students with an innate talent for cybersecurity to study the discipline at the highest level and to educate the cybersecurity leaders of tomorrow.

How does it work?

CyberStart is part-game, part-training and part-competition. Players take the role of a security professional trying to catch various hackers. Players are presented with a set of challenges at varying levels of difficulty.

Challenges have hints and a field manual to help the player solve them, and players learn as they play. The game is designed for all skills and knowledge levels, including someone who has never considered a field of study or career in technology.

The ITS Information Security Department might interview top finishers for a paid student job in our SOC.

Wait…a job?

Yes, a part-time student job. While any student is eligible for a position in the SOC (see Handshake for listings), taking part in CyberStart helps assess whether candidates have the skills we seek.

What do I need to play?

First and foremost, you need to have an interest. You’ll also need an internet connection, a laptop/computer and a web browser. (Note: Smartphones and tablets do not work well with the CyberStart environment.)

I’ve never taken any classes in cybersecurity or information technology. Would I be wasting my time if I tried to play?

Absolutely not. CyberStart is designed to help technical AND nontechnical students discover if they have interests and skills that translate to cybersecurity. You only need to invest an hour of your time to see if you really have the interest to continue building your skills. In addition to your research outside of CyberStart, an extensive field manual features video demos, top tips and essential background information to help with challenges.

How do I get started?

Bring your laptop to our pizza party on Oct. 14 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. in Falk 100. Play around with CyberStart. The first part of CyberStart will get you comfortable with the system and prepare you to explore the over 200 defensive/offensive security challenges.

Do I have to go to the pizza party to play?

No. We’ll communicate how to enter the semester-long competition after the party for those who couldn’t make it, but why not join us? Free pizza, free soda, free cookies. You’ll also get a chance to meet some of Syracuse University’s Info Sec staff members.

How long do I have to play?

Access to CyberStart will run until April 2023. The Syracuse University-sponsored CyberStart competition will run from October 2022 through January 31, 2023. After that, you can continue to play until April 2023 if you would like to compete for cybersecurity training scholarships through the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation, but University staff will no longer track your progress.