Brooklyn Transforms into Cyber Security Central as Student Hackers, Researchers and Professionals Compete in NYU-Poly Challenges

Today and tomorrow, Brooklyn becomes the epicenter for the future of cyber security.

Three hundred of the country’s best student hackers, including the nation’s top young applied cyber security researchers, along with New York City’s network of cyber security professionals, winners of the fabled DEF CON cyber challenges and the keynote speaker from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will converge on the campus of Polytechnic Institute of New York University for the 7th Annual Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW) challenges.

The CSAW competitions are organized by NYU-Poly cyber security students and comprise the most comprehensive set of cyber challenges for students. Finalists compete for prizes and scholarships by solving simulated security crises likely to emerge in an increasingly wired world.

Keynote speaker will be Sean Paul McGurk, director, Control Systems Security Program, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Bryan Hatton of the Idaho National Laboratory Cyber Security Team will open the event as a particularly appropriate speaker: He led the 2020 winning team in the most famous of hacker challenges, the DEF CON Capture the Flag cyber challenge.

“CSAW illustrates the growing recognition of the need to educate highly skilled security professionals as well as the rapid acceleration of knowledge in the cyber security field,” said Nasir Memon, who heads NYU-Poly’s cyber security program. “In only its second year, our high school forensics challenge attracted 110 teams from elite schools in15 different states. That shows how many schools realize they must start early to infuse students with the math and engineering that they will need to succeed in cyber security in their university studies and professional lives.”

This year’s CSAW Embedded Systems Challenge also demonstrates how dramatically security tools are advancing in response to cyber threats, Memon said. “This hardware challenge is particularly difficult – as well as particularly important in the real world. During manufacturing, unscrupulous vendors can insert difficult-to-detect trojans that can wreak havoc later,” he said. “Trust-HUB, the source that security professionals use to log news of these dangerous hardware trojans, reports only 22. Two years ago, the highly skilled student finalists in our Embedded Systems Challenge were able to design 50 attacks against hardware. This year, they developed 216 attacks. That is evidence of the vulnerability of real-world hardware, but it also illustrates how topflight schools are helping these students analyze trojans in order to better defend against them in the real world.”

Jeyavijayan Rajendran, graduate student in electrical and computer engineering and the leader of the team that won last year’s Embedded Systems Challenge, leads the team of NYU-Poly students who designed this year’s challenges.  

Judges are James L. Howard, director and chief engineer, Information Assurance, L3 Communications, Communication Systems-East (CS-E); Ben Epstein, co-founder of Septet Systems, chief strategy officer of Aqsacom Inc./Aqsacom SAS and vice president – special projects of OpCoast; Keith O'Brien, distinguished systems engineer, Cisco Systems; Kurt Rosenfeld, system engineer, Google; Lok Yan, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Rome, N.Y.; and Youngok Pino, electronics engineer, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Rome, N.Y. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Xilinx sponsor the Embedded Systems Challenge.

Finalists in the Embedded Systems Challenge are:

  • Aswin Krishna, Seetharam Narasimhan (captain) and Xinmu Wang, Case Western Reserve University;
  • David Graziano (captain), Jamin Hitchcock, Tim Meyer, Justin Rilling and Xinying Wang, Iowa State University; 
  • Georg T. Becker (captain), Ashwin Lakshminarasimhan, Lang Lin and Sudheendra Srivathsa, University of Massachusetts;
  • Trey Reece, Vanderbilt University;
  • Xuehui Zhang, University of Connecticut;
  • Yier Jin (captain) and Nathan Kupp, Yale University;
  • Peter Wihl, Polytechnic Institute of NYU; 
  • Shruthi Sankanna Muralidhar, Srinivasulu Pola and Nischay Tata (captain), NYU-Poly;
  • Hetal Borad and Xiaofei (Rex) Guo (captain), NYU-Poly, and
  • Haridayal Jaswal (captain), NYU-Poly, and Yerra Trinath, The City College of New York of The City University of New York.

Efstratios Gavas, NYU-Poly doctoral candidate in computer science, heads the High School Cyber Forensics Challenge team.

Judges are Mark Althouse, technical director, cryptographic products engineering, U.S. Department of Defense; Dan Srebnick, associate commissioner and chief information security officer, New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications; Pete Taylor, vice president, Technology Risk Group, Goldman Sachs; and Eric K. Thompson, founder and chief technology officer, AccessData.

High school finalists for the forensics challenge are:

  • Allied Health and Science, Team 0x21, Neptune, New Jersey;
  • Biotechnology High School, Team Ramrod, Freehold, New Jersey;
  • Bronx High School of Science, Digital Autopsy, Bronx, New York;
  • High Technology High School, md5 hash browns, Lincroft, New Jersey;
  • Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Team MK ULTRA, Aurora, Illinois;
  • Poolesville High School, Eric Harrison, Kevin Harrison, and Jack Zhu; Poolesville, Maryland;
  • Poolesville High School, Team Echo, Poolesville, Maryland;
  • Red Bank Regional, Confliker, Little Silver, New Jersey;
  • Southern Utah Center for Computer, Engineering and Science, David Morgan, Jeremiah Schopen, Jake Green, Cedar City, Utah;
  • Staten Island Technical High School, WhizKidz, Staten Island, New York;
  • The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science, GAMS Cyber Forensics Team, Bowling Green, Kentucky; and
  • Wellesley High School, Pun Intended, Wellesley, Massachusetts.

The CSAW challenges are also sponsored by AccessData, BAE Systems, Center for Advanced Technology in Communications, LGS Innovations and AT&T, which sponsors the AT&T Award for Best Applied Security Research Paper.

NYU-Poly was one of the earliest schools to introduce a cyber security program, receiving National Security Agency (NSA) approval nearly a decade ago. Designated as both a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and a Center of Academic Excellence in Research by the NSA, the school houses a National Science Foundation-funded Information Systems and Internet Security (ISIS) Laboratory, the nerve center of cyber security research. Under Memon, ISIS students create and run the annual CSAW games.


About Polytechnic Institute of New York University

Polytechnic Institute of New York University (formerly Polytechnic University), an affiliate of New York University, is a comprehensive school of engineering, applied sciences, technology and research, and is rooted in a 156-year tradition of invention, innovation and entrepreneurship: i2e. The institution, founded in 1854, is the nation’s second-oldest private engineering school. In addition to its main campus in New York City at MetroTech Center in downtown Brooklyn, it also offers programs at sites throughout the region and around the globe. Globally, NYU-Poly has programs in Israel, China and is an integral part of NYU's campus in Abu Dhabi.