Students Hack Away At Cyber Security in NYU Competition

By Tim Wright

Last Friday, Montgomery College hosted in partnership with New York University a cyber security competition among 45 high school students from Poolesville High School and Blair High School. Each year, NYU invites teams of students from across the country and abroad to use coding and cyber forensics to solve a murder mystery. This mystery is related to the hacking of a major company. Students from the competition have a chance to win a $14,000 scholarship to the University.

NYU’s Polytechnic School of Engineering sent clues to the cell phones of the students to help them solve the mystery. The students then had to use the knowledge they acquired in the classroom in order to decode the mystery and solve the murder.

Usually, the competition is not held on a local level. However, Mark Estep, head of the computer science department at Poolesville High, thought it would be a great idea to extend the completion locally, so that those who didn’t get invited to the competitive finals at NYU would have a chance to experience the competition. “We spoke directly after his students won. Mark and I were talking about reaching out to others that didn’t make it,” said Joel Fernandez, professor of digital forensics at NYU.

Amy Crowley, who works at Montgomery College office of Academic Initiatives, explained that she wants more schools to participate in the program because it encourages students to develop their skills in an area which carries many job openings in the DC metro area. “We want to make kids aware that it could be fun, but you can also make a career out of this.”

The winners were the 16-year-old students Suriya Kandaswamy, Christopher Look, and Cherru Zou. They each won a set of Beats by Dre Headphones.

Cyber security is a prominent field within the STEM community, and hopefully the Cyber Security Competition will bring attention to the field encourage students to develop skills that will be useful to them in college and in the job market.