Found: Cyber Stars of the Future

International Participation Climbs 60 Percent in NYU-Poly's 6th Annual Digital Security Challenges; Industry and Government Professionals Woo Future Cyber Sleuths

Nearly 300 cyber-security celebrities, information security officers from industry and government, academics and students converged on Brooklyn Nov. 13 for cyber games in which students claimed scholarships, prizes and credentials for a career field that is rapidly expanding and offering some of the highest salaries.

The 6th Annual Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW) games were organized by the graduate students of Polytechnic Institute of New York University’s leading cyber-security program. Preliminary rounds attracted a record 724 top computer students in America and Europe – 60 percent more than last year.  During the final rounds held at the NYU-Poly campus, more than 100 high school, undergraduate and graduate students competed in rigorous war games, digital mysteries, research and other challenges.

Keynote speaker for the awards ceremony that followed the games was General Electric’s chief information security officer, Grady Summers.  Summers is known for embracing emerging technology and has pioneered the use of cloud storage and security as a service to decrease GE’s information risk.  His speech, “Three Challenges to Winning in Cyber Security,” outlined the changing nature of digital threats; once the purview of curious hackers, the invasions now extend to military and national security realms, and the digital weapons are increasingly complex.  He encouraged students to use their creativity and persistence as defense tools, and expressed optimism about combating the emerging threats and the career path the students chose.

Judges – corporate and government digital security officers as well as celebrity “white hat” hackers who protect networks – named the following winners:

Capture the Flag Application Security: First place, ppop  team, Carnegie Mellon University; second place, RPISEC team, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; third place, SecDaemons, team, DePaul University.

High School Cyber Forensics Challenge: First place, Class Sitech Extends Awesome Team 1, Staten Island Technical High School, N.Y.; MD5 Hashbrowns team, High Technology High School, N.J.; Hax4food team, Poolesville High School, Md.

Embedded Systems Challenge: First place, NYU-Poly team of Agilandeshwari Dhandapani, Arun Karthick, Jeyavijayan Rajendran, Ranjit Somasekaran and Xiaohua Xu (Danny); second place, Vanderbilt University team of Trey Rece; third place, Yale University team of Yier Jin and Nathan Kupp.

Quiz Tournament: First place, Robert Escriva and Jay Smith, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; second place, Adam Comella and Andrew Zonenberg, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; third place, Sriram Lakshmanan, Georgia Tech and Eugene Vasserman, University of Minnesota.

Research Award: First place, Baris Coskun, NYU-Poly; second place, Mike Ter Louw, University of Illinois at Chicago; third place, Sriram Lakshmanan, Georgia Institute of Technology; honorable mentions, Patrick Gage Kelley, Carnegie Mellon University, and Daniela Alvim Seabra de Oliveira, University of California Davis.
Security Awareness Poster Competition: First place, Angela Wen, University of Texas at Austin; second place, Wendy Yuan Zhang, Horace Mann School; third place, Gautam Voleti, Georgia

A full list of team members’ names and scores is posted at

The games are run by the graduate students of NYU-Poly’s Information Systems and Internet Security (ISIS) Lab, funded by the National Science Foundation and headed by Professor Nasir Memon, a prominent cyber-security expert.

The number of cyber security professionals in attendance nearly outnumbered the contestants, as companies, police forces and government agencies vie for the talent needed to protect networks from criminals and terrorists and to pursue criminals through digital forensics.

Sponsor SANS estimates that the United States currently has only 1,000 top-notch cyber-security wizards but that the country will need 20,000 - 30,000 within a few years.

Cyber-security jobs are among the highest paid across all categories listed by the U.S. Department of Labor, and in 2008 rated computer forensics salaries among the Top 10 High Paying Careers and Best Average Starting Career.

“The field of cyber-security provides opportunity, creativity and – as the CSAW games illustrate – fun,” said NYU-Poly’s Memon.  “We hope some of the students we met today will go on to become professionals who protect the infosphere and battle real cyber crime.”

Memon thanked the CSAW sponsors that provided the travel funds and prizes to make the student-run competition possible: Assured Information Security, AT&T, BAE Systems, the Center for Advanced Technology in Telecommunications at NYU-Poly, Cisco, InterDigital, L-3 Communications, NIKSUN and SANS.