Florida Tech Information
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Competitors is right down to the wire, with simply minutes remaining when the answer strikes you.
You race to decode a cryptic picture and spend the final 30 seconds rapidly deciphering Morse code whereas your teammate enters it as shortly as his fingers can sort.
Different instances, it’s 3 a.m., and also you notice you’ve been staring on the similar piece of code for eight hours.
Such is the character of cybersecurity, and Josh Connolly loves it.
Josh, who will graduate with a pc engineering bachelor’s diploma in Might, is president and founding father of FITSec, Florida Tech’s cybersecurity competitors crew.
When Josh enrolled at Florida Tech in 2016, he assumed a cybersecurity crew already existed on the college. It didn’t.
“I used to be disenchanted, and I believed, ‘Effectively, if there’s not a corporation already, there must be one,’” Josh says.
“I had by no means competed earlier than. I had little or no technical potential, and I by no means actually wished to guide a corporation—it has by no means been my fashion—however I acknowledged the necessity and determined, ‘Let’s do that.’”
In 2019, Josh created FITSec with a bunch of three or 4 of his pc engineering friends, atypical for cybersecurity competitors groups, which normally include pc science college students.
Josh shortly acknowledged the necessity to hone the crew’s give attention to only one competitors sort, deciding on CTF as a result of its extra transferable ability set and larger competitors frequency.
In CTF competitions, groups or people full as lots of the posed challenges as attainable in an allotted time-frame, normally 48 hours.
Challenges incorporate matters like open-source intelligence, cryptography, log evaluation, community visitors evaluation, enumeration/exploitation and extra.
After finishing a problem, rivals retrieve a “flag,” which they then flip in for factors. The crew or particular person with probably the most factors wins.
“To start with, it was tough as a result of we had no thought what we had been doing. Our aim was simply to not get final place,” Josh says. “We would spend 10 hours on a single downside, however we might be taught issues that might assist with the subsequent competitors.”
This baptism-by-fire strategy labored for FITSec, judging by the titles and trophies the crew has racked up, together with a number of high 10 placements, first place on the 2020 U.S. Cyber Problem regional qualifier, and eighth place on the Nationwide Cyber League Competitors, the place greater than 5,000 college students competed and Josh positioned third individually.
In simply two years, FITSec has grown to about 30 lively members and has participated in additional than 30 competitions of various dimension, problem and scope. Members have traveled to locations like Augusta, Georgia, and Argonne Nationwide Laboratory in Chicago.
They’ve competed towards fellow faculty college students and cybersecurity professionals alike, and in summer season 2020, they participated in a global competitors through which they hacked an precise functioning satellite tv for pc.
“It’s been enjoyable,” Josh says. “Nerve-racking, however enjoyable.”
Earlier than coming to Florida Tech, Josh spent eight years within the U.S. Military, reaching the rank of sergeant earlier than finishing his service in 2016.
Josh acquired his first style of the cybersecurity world whereas serving as a satellite tv for pc communication methods operator-maintainer with the tenth Particular Forces Group in Colorado.
It was there he met Dr. T.J. O’Connor, Florida Tech assistant professor, or as he knew him on the time, Main O’Connor.
“I believed ‘Oh nice, one other one among these,’” Josh says. “However he talked about all this cool hacking stuff. I went house and began taking part in on my pc and looking out into all of those completely different applied sciences. It’s actually the place my journey started, and it was simply full coincidence that Dr. O’Connor ended up being at Florida Tech.”
Dr. O’Connor now serves as Florida Tech’s cybersecurity program chair and as FITSec’s school advisor.
“It’s just like the NCAA event for cybersecurity college students,” Dr. O’Connor says.
“The factor that’s most essential to me as a college member in schooling. So, any alternate technique of schooling that may excite college students who wouldn’t in any other case be excited, or take college students who’re considerably excited and drive them to dive deeper into a subject by themselves, I completely love.”
Having joined Florida Tech’s school in 2019 after 20 years within the navy, Dr. O’Connor focuses his analysis on two areas: cybersecurity schooling and web of issues (IoT) safety of home items.
In his IoT Safety and Privateness Lab, he and his college students have carried out experiments on sensible house merchandise, like audio system, doorbells, backdoor cameras and extra, discovering their vulnerabilities and truly hacking into them.
Then, as a substitute of utilizing the entry to harass, intimidate, stalk or harm folks like malicious hackers do, Dr. O’Connor and his college students notify the distributors and even counsel technique of enchancment after they can.
“I believe we’re at type of an important level, the place there are loads of issues which might be coming into our homes—every thing from the scales folks use to the espresso maker to the storage door opener to the lock that secures our home to the digital camera system—and we’re embracing loads of these items with out as soon as taking a look at them,” Dr. O’Connor says.
In some circumstances, these experiments have confirmed profitable, with college students receiving pretty substantial financial awards from grateful sensible house system distributors.
This hands-on strategy with real-world utility ties into his second space of analysis: schooling.
Along with growing methods to make cybersecurity schooling accessible to numerous teams of individuals, and at a youthful age, Dr. O’Connor’s analysis goals to get college students enthusiastic about and ready for cybersecurity careers.
“Pc safety is a tough factor to check, and there’s loads of time spent altering a one to a zero and a zero to a one, and it may be pretty boring,” Dr. O’Connor says. “However I believe college students are discovering that there’s loads of enjoyable available in attacking gadgets. And as a professor, I’m actually excited to see that they’re studying the elemental ideas at a faster, sooner price, and it’s being bolstered by the passion of learning shopper gadgets.”
Such is the methodology of the programs he has created for Florida Tech’s cyber operations focus.
The focus is a part of Florida Tech’s efforts as a Nationwide Safety Company (NSA) Middle of Excellence for Analysis, a program managed by the NSA’s Nationwide Cryptologic College.
“The focus introduces you to completely different cybersecurity ideas, mainly providing you with data of the instruments you’ll be coping with and the way they work by hands-on engagement,” says Liana Villafuerte, one of many first two college students who will graduate with the focus in Might. “Dr. O’Connor made this his child as a result of he needs college students to grasp how enjoyable cybersecurity will be.”
Liana selected to main in pc science her freshman 12 months due to her lifelong curiosity in gaming. However after taking Introduction to Cybersecurity, she shortly modified course.
“I simply fell in love with it,” she says. “Each lab is a problem. However it’s an excellent problem—one the place you’re like, ‘Oh, I wish to beat this.’”
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