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TexSAW Virtually Celebrates its 10th Year

Last fall, the UT Dallas Cyber Security Research and Education Institute (CSI), in conjunction with the UT Dallas Computer Science Department, virtually celebrated its 10th Annual Texas Security Awareness Week (TexSAW 2020). Each year, TexSAW brings together cybersecurity, computer science, and software engineering students from across Texas who are interested in pursuing careers in computer security and expanding their knowledge in cybersecurity. The event provides students with the opportunity to socialize and network with students from other universities in Texas who share a common interest in cybersecurity.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, TexSAW 2020 consisted of a free 48-hour online capture-the-flag (CTF) competition. The competition is geared toward beginners in cybersecurity. Student teams consisting of two to three people were able to virtually participate in the contest at their own location. TexSAW’20 saw approximately 62 participants on 30 teams from 11 different Texas universities. The main topics for the competition focused on web security, penetration testing, forensics, crypto, and other various security-related topics.

Due to COVID restrictions, participants were able to engage virtually with each other through a discord server that was created for the event. Participants were able to ask each other questions and chatted about the challenges without spoiling any of the solutions. This Jeopardy-style contest allowed students 48 hours to work on the competition challenges, which included several questions with varying difficulty levels for each of the students to work on.

Below are the winners of the 2020 TexSaw CTF competition:

  • 1st Place: Brandon Savino (The University of Texas at Dallas)
  • 2nd Place: Kai Huang (The University of Texas at Dallas)
  • 3rd Place: Roel Barrera (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) and Mason Garza (University of Houston)

The 10th Annual TexSAW event was mainly organized by students of the Scholarship for Service (SFS) program and the Computer Security Group (CSG), with the assistance of  SFS program director and CSG faculty advisor Dr. Kamil Sarac, Dr. Bhavani Thuraisingham, executive director of the CSI, and  Ms. Rhonda Walls, CSI Project Coordinator.

TexSAW 2021 will take place next fall.


The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 3,315 bachelors-degree students, more than 1,110 master’s students, 165 Ph.D. students,  52 tenure-track faculty members, and 44 full-time senior lecturers, as of Fall 2019. With the University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.

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