Nine computer science students and three professors attended the BlackHat and DefCon conferences in Las Vegas this summer, thanks to scholarships from Facebook.
Black Hat USA is one of the world’s leading information security events addressing the latest cybersecurity research, development and trends. Students had the opportunity to network and discuss career opportunities with more than 19,000 representatives from top security solution companies and to participate in two networking events organized by Facebook – the Facebook Cybersecurity Networking Mixer and Facebook University Mixer – where they met Facebook cybersecurity professionals, administrators, faculty and peers from other universities affiliated with the Facebook Cybersecurity University Program.
DefCon, the biggest national hacker convention, attracts tens of thousands of attendees every year. This year, the conference featured 31 “hacker villages” where students could test their cyber skills by hacking cars, aviation systems, voting machines and mobile devices.
Computer science students Kestrel Bridges ’20, James Cavanaugh ’20, Daulet Diyarov ‘22, Shelby Mitchell ‘20, Hugo Renzzo Olcese ’20, George Osterweil ’20, Geovanny Vera Pazmino ’21, Danny Pires ’21, and Kelly Rose ‘20 were awarded the merit-based travel scholarships. Professor of Computer Science Dr. Xiang Fu, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Dr. Angeliki Zavou, and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Computer Science Uzo Osuno accompanied them.
“Hofstra’s collaboration with Facebook has contributed significantly to the growth of our academic programs in cybersecurity,” Dr. Fu said. “Since 2017, the Facebook-Hofstra Cybersecurity Program has helped us offer six sections of the Cybersecurity for Everyone course, two cybersecurity, colloquia, several student internship opportunities and 74 travel scholarships to Hofstra students and faculty to attend respected cybersecurity conferences like Blackhat and Defcon.”
Students were selected based on their performance in the 2018-2019 Cybersecurity for Everyone course, developed by codepath.org and sponsored by Facebook.
“Attending these conferences gave me the opportunity to network with the best cybersecurity professionals in the world and first-hand exposure to how amazing this community is,” Cavanaugh said. “I left feeling motivated to get to the same level of expertise as many of the speakers and attendees.”
Cavanaugh, Pires and Dr. Zavou formed a team, “The Flying Dutchman”, and successfully completed the “Honeypot Challenge” – one of a series of Capture the Flag (CTF) competitions at the conference. The competition involved intercepting and decrypting messages by writing code to uncover hints for the next challenge.
“Blackhat and Defcon are the most interesting and fun security conferences,” Dr. Zavou said. “Students had the opportunity to test their cybersecurity skills and to see real hackers who have the knowledge and the tools to break into just about any system imaginable, in action.”
For more information about Hofstra’s cybersecurity programs, visit DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science.