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Cybersecurity Student Rises To New Heights

Kyle Higginbotham
Kyle Higginbotham

By: Emily Lewis

His high school teacher had assigned him extra work due to his speedy completion of class assignments. Kyle Higginbotham, 18, thought of this to be easy busy work, until one evening after school he completed a school project for the first time on his own time.

Higginbotham’s teacher encouraged him to compete in Radford University’s Capture The Flag (RUCTF) contest. This is when Higginbotham realized his passion.

“I was never the one to do homework outside of school but this quickly changed,” said Higginbotham.  “I was never challenged by any work and I thought most of it was easy, but not the capture the flag competition. There were problems that I would be stuck on for hours at a time but nothing would beat the joy of finally solving the problem.”

RUCTF, a five-week virtual contest, provides opportunities for high school and community college students to participate in cyber security challenges. The purpose is to educate, motivate, and reward students interested in cyber security.

The contest challenges students in a wide variety of areas including anatomy of an attack, introduction to networking, cryptography, forensics, web security, and Windows/Linux security. Scholarships are offered to all finalists based upon placement in the contest.

Although spending time at the university and competing in the contest sparked his interest in IT, computers have always held Higginbotham’s attention. “There was always something there that just clicked with me and technology. It was never hard for me to understand and learn how computers worked,” stated Higginbotham.

Higginbotham is striving to graduate in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in cyber security and plans to apply to Radford’s accelerated track for the DAIM masters program. After graduating with his master’s degree, Higginbotham plans to pursue a career with the government or well-known business working with cyber security.

Originally from Pembroke, Va., Higginbotham, who entered Radford this fall as a sophomore, is rising quickly. Prior to college, computer hardware was his only experience with information technology having taken classes at New River Community College during high school. In October, he competed in his first intercollegiate cyber defense challenge during the CyberSEED conference at the University of Connecticut.

Higginbotham’s team placed sixth out of eighteen at CyberSEED. “I feel that we did amazing” he said. “It was a fun competition and I would love to compete in it again next year.”

The adjustment to college was easy for Higginbotham with the help of his professors,
“Forming a relationship with some of the professors is one of the best things that happened to me. You can tell they want you to succeed and they will do their best to help you in any way they can.”

Higginbotham’s favorite aspect of the cyber security program is problem solving. He chose Radford because he favored relationships with professors and the atmosphere of the campus, “The class sizes are small so there is more of a student teacher bond. You aren’t just a number at this university. The community is also very supportive, helpful, and friendly.”