Helping Students Hack into Great Careers

Meet Brad Antoniewicz and Brandon Edwards, Tandon’s “Hackers-in-Residence”

Brad Antoniewicz and Brandon Edwards admit they are sometimes envious of their students. While the cyber security program at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering is one of the oldest in the country, it did not exist back when they were students themselves.

“I always knew this was a field I wanted to be involved in,” Brandon Edwards, who now runs his own research and development lab at BEA Systems, recalls. “But there was simply no place with an established program of study.” Antoniewicz, who works with Cisco’s OpenDNS, concurs; he had first encountered a computer when visiting his mother, a teacher, in her middle-school resource room and his focus had quickly become getting a computer-related job — a goal he accomplished at age 15.

Brad Antoniewicz (left) and Brandon Edwards

Brad Antoniewicz (left) and Brandon Edwards

With their wealth of industry experience, Antoniewicz and Edwards serve as Hackers-in-Residence in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (where Antoniewicz has also been an adjunct professor since 2013). In that capacity, they advise young researchers working at the student-run Offensive Security, Incident Response and Internet Security (OSIRIS) Lab and more. “We don’t want to simply give them the benefit of our technical knowledge,” Edwards asserts. “We’re also here to guide them professionally by giving them information about internships and job searches and by finding great guest speakers who can expand their web of contacts in the industry.” He continued, “There are so many bright students here. We enjoy helping them connect the dots on their ideas and accelerate their exposure to all aspects of the field.” Edwards, who got involved with Tandon back in 2010, when department chair Nasir Memon invited him to guest lecture on various security topics, has even hired students from OSIRIS to work in his own BEA Systems lab.

Students also get ample opportunity to be on the frontlines of events like BSidesNYC, an information and security conference co-founded by Antoniewicz in 2014. “It’s a volunteer-run event, and I’m always thrilled when Tandon students get involved,” he says, explaining that in addition to the usual guest speakers and presentations, BSides features an Embedded Exploitation Village, where participants can learn to defeat a secure boot feature with a paperclip and more, and Lockpick Village where they can tinker (and maybe pretend to be a secret agent).

The two are especially excited to discuss Tandon’s annual Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW), the biggest student-run cyber-security event in the world. Edwards has been a judge of the Capture the Flag competition at CSAW since 2010, and this year the pair will be judging the Department of Homeland Security Quiz (a game show-like competition that is always an audience favorite). “Getting ready for CSAW and Capture the Flag absorbs the entire OSIRIS Lab,” Edwards says. “Brad and I help where we’re needed, but the students really take the lead here, and it’s always a great experience.”

It’s just one of many great experiences the cyber security students get, thanks to Hackers-in-Residence who serve as technical advisors, mentors, and invaluable liaisons to the professional world.