Real-Life CSI: 13 High School Teams Reach the Final Round in the Search for the Top Cyber Investigators of the Future

For the Finalists, NYU-Poly’s Cyber Security Awareness Week Will Feature a Special Digital Forensic Challenge Plus Prizes, Scholarships and Access to Iconic Hackers

Cyber security is capturing the attention of a growing number of high school students, judging by the record participation in Polytechnic Institute of New York University’s annual Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW) challenges.

More than 150 high school teams competed in the preliminary rounds of the CSAW High School Cyber Forensics Challenge that will culminate this Friday, Nov. 11, with 13 finalists vying for scholarships and cash prizes for their schools’ science programs on the Brooklyn campus of Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly).

In another measure of high school students’ increasing interest in the cyber security field, fully 17 percent of the teams participating in the early rounds of CSAW’s internationally renowned Capture the Flag Applications Security Challenge were comprised of high school students. That hacking competition draws even professionals in the early rounds.

“Educators have long recognized that the shortage of engineers, scientists and mathematicians does not start in the hallways of universities – young people need to learn about the excitement and opportunities of these subjects in primary and secondary schools,” said Nasir Memon, internationally recognized scholar and head of NYU-Poly’s cyber security program. “Our NYU-Poly students, working with security professionals, design the CSAW challenges to be fun and appealing to students while preparing them for the rigorous theoretical and practical problems they will someday need to solve. With events like CSAW, we hope to encourage them to stay on this path through their university years.”

Of the 13 finalist teams that will compete in the forensics challenge at NYU-Poly Friday, two were comprised of a single student each. Two schools fielded two teams each that were strong enough to make it to the finals. And nearly half the finalists will come from New Jersey – which may come in handy because the forensics challenge they will try to unravel is a murder mystery inspired by the television series Jersey Shore.

The following students will represent the 13 winning teams at the finals:

  • Amador Valley High School – California – Team for(;ever;);: Jeff Chen, Joey Pereira and Cary Yang; Mentor: Richard Hanson

  • The Brooklyn Latin School - New York – Team Wh0 Need5 Sleep: Nicolas Biondo, Swaad Golam and Luis Valdez; Mentor: Katherine Miller 

  • High Technology High School - New Jersey – Team failwhales+: Austin Eng, Zachary Liu and Matthew Tsim; Mentor: Michael T. Roche

  • High Technology High School - New Jersey – Team Pretzels: Vincent Chen, Matthew Hsu and Andrew Millman; Mentor: Michael T. Roche

  • Illinois Math and Science Academy – Team Epiary: Ethan Bian; Mentor: Namrata Pandya 

  • John P. Stevens High School - New Jersey – Team An Enigma: Eric Song and Brian Xiao; Mentor: Florene Quan

  • Middlesex County Academy for SMET - New Jersey – 11 Man Team: Shreyas Chand, Eric Jeney and Brianna Mussman; Mentor: Enzo Paterno 

  • Pompano Beach High - Florida – Team SB6120: Nicholas Spawny Lucas and Chris Portela ; Mentor: Ralph Marchand 

  • Poolesville High School - Maryland – Team Echo: Brendan Rowan, Daniel Luu and James Palmer; Mentor: Mark Estep

  • Red Bank Regional High School - New Jersey – Team Administrators: Jared Katzman, Luke Matarazzo and Ryan McVeetey; Mentor: Mandy Galante 

  • Red Bank Regional High School - New Jersey – Team Zettabyte: Alec Jasanovsky, Michael Terpak and Emily Wicki; Mentor: Mandy Galante 

  • Roanoke Valley Governor's School - Virginia – Team GonePhishing: Sachith Gullapalli, Noah Luther and Varun Kavuru; Mentor: Fred Hoffman 

  • The Salisbury School - Maryland -- Team 010101000101001101010011: Keno Fischer; Mentor: Jared Lewellyn

President Barack Obama has declared the shortage of highly trained cyber security professionals a threat to national and global security. Similarly, NYU-Poly’s Memon said that police have reported severe backlogs in their digital investigations.

“Nearly every criminal investigation today involves a computer, a mobile phone, data transmission or some other digital element,” he said. “The finalists in these CSAW competitions could someday become real-life CSI investigators, or they might create the technology to make those investigators more productive.”

The NYU-Poly CSAW challenges are among the oldest and broadest student-led competitions, and encourage awareness of the increasing threats to privacy and security issues for individuals, governments, business and smart infrastructure. The difficult challenges and the final round of competitions encourage students to build networks with others in the field to help keep abreast of the fast-changing knowledge base. 

As part of CSAW, the high school students will interact with professors and well known professionals who serve as judges. Peiter Zatko, a DARPA program manager who became famous among hackers as “Mudge,” will keynote Thursday night’s welcome meeting, and Don Proctor, Cisco senior vice president and leader of its Cybersecurity Task Force, will keynote Friday’s award ceremony. High school finalists may also apply for internships during a career fair that will include top employers of cyber security talent.

Sponsors of the event – many of them providing judges and career fair recruiters – include AT&T, AccessData, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cisco, Facebook, Gotham Digital Science, Hewlett-Packard Company, Huawei, Intel, International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants, Kaspersky Lab, Lockheed Martin, Matasano, National Science Foundation, Pitney Bowes, Raytheon, Research In Motion, Sandia National Laboratories, State Street, Stroz Friedberg, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, U.S. Army Research Office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Xilinx.

NYU-Poly was one of the earliest schools to introduce a cyber security program, receiving National Security Agency (NSA) approval 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 Laboratory, the nerve center of cyber security research. The Sloan Consortium, an affiliation of educators and institutions dedicated to quality online education, named NYU-Poly’s cyber security program as the Outstanding Online Program for 2011. 

Its CSAW experience will lead to a new program next year for high schools. It will include training for high school teachers, summer boot camp and a web portal to network and support emerging talent.

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 157-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. For more information, visit