CSyndicate From Rhodes University Wins The National Cyber Security Challenge As The Highest Performance.

In the dynamic realm of cybersecurity, it is often the dedicated educators and passionate students who drive innovation and excellence. Dr Stones Chindipha, a lecturer in Computer Science at Rhodes University, has been instrumental in nurturing cybersecurity talent as evidenced by his group of students at the South African National Research Network (SANReN) Cyber Security Challenge earlier this month.


The SANReN Cyber Security Challenge is an annual competition that engages university students from across Southern Africa in intense cybersecurity competitions. This prestigious event took place at the Kruger National Park’s Skukuza campsite this year.


Teams of three or four compete fiercely, and only the top-performing team advances to the next level. Out of 128 teams from at least 20 universities, only 10 teams were selected to participate in the finals.


‘CSyndicate’, one of Dr Chindipha’s student groups comprising Richard Drinkwater, Kenneth Chieza, Siyamthanda Hlomendlini, and Gabriella Govender, secured a perfect score. This victory marked the first time a Rhodes University team achieved such a feat and distinguished CSyndicate as the sole team from the Eastern Cape to achieve a perfect score.


Dr Chindipha expressed his pride in CSyndicate’s achievement, “Our team’s success is a testament to the dedication and hard work of our students. Their remarkable performance reflects their commitment to the field of cybersecurity.”


CSyndicate faced formidable opponents from various universities, including Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria, University of the Western Cape, North West University (NWU), two teams from the University of Johannesburg (engineering and computer science), and Wits University, which also had two teams from engineering and computer science.


The competition comprised several categories, including attack and defend, decryption of messages, flag collection (proof of problem-solving), Capture the Flag (CTF), and sponsored challenges from organisations like Cyber Orange, Matlab, and BitM. CSyndicate excelled across these diverse challenges, demonstrating their versatility and expertise.


Reflecting on CSyndicate’s performance, Dr Chindipha remarked, “The competition’s diverse challenges tested our students’ skills and adaptability. Their ability to excel in various categories speaks to their well-rounded cybersecurity knowledge.”


When all the scores were tallied and challenges combined, Rhodes University’s CSyndicate achieved an impressive third-place overall finish behind NWU and NUST. This was a historic moment for Rhodes University, as they stood on the podium as one of the top four performing teams in the competition, their best performance to date.

Dr Chindipha hopes that CSyndicate’s success will motivate more students to participate in future editions of this annual competition. The SANReN Cyber Security Challenge welcomes students from first-year undergraduates to master’s degree candidates. Dr Chindipha encourages aspiring participants to embrace curiosity and passion for the challenge.


He said: “I am open to tutoring and offering guidance when the next opportunity presents itself to more students. Since CSyndicate was in the top three, they can’t compete again so this opens more opportunities for other students.”


Rhodes University’s CSyndicate’s journey will remain a shining example of what can be achieved with passion, teamwork, and mentorship in the world of cybersecurity.

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