Virtual Spider Crawls Up Historic Brooklyn Building to Open World's Largest Student Cyber Security Event

Artists and Geeks Team Up to Mark the 10th Anniversary of NYU-Poly’s Cyber Security Awareness Week

Brooklyn, New York—For the first time, pedestrians in downtown Brooklyn will be able to actually see that the borough is home to the world’s biggest student cyber security event—not merely guess at the hacking, sleuthing, and protecting emanating from hundreds of laptops inside the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) during its Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW).

To open the signature contest for NYU-Poly CSAW’s 10th anniversary, artist and professor Mark Skwarek, along with NYU-Poly undergraduate Joseph Xin, created animated 3-D images of the CSAW mascot—a spider—crawling up the front of the school’s Wunsch Hall. The virtual spiders will creep from 5:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 14.

As they begin their last climb, the final round of CSAW’s Capture The Flag (CTF) hacking competition—which attracted 15,000 contestants from 82 countries in its preliminary round—will open inside NYU-Poly’s gymnasium. For 32 straight hours, the best undergraduate (and single high school) teams will vie for prizes, scholarships, and glory.

“The Integrated Digital Media Program and our Mobile Augmented Reality Lab members decided that all of the pedestrians walking through our campus in MetroTech Center should see evidence of the powerhouse of computer science and engineering that CSAW has become,” Skwarek said. “We also wanted to demonstrate the kind of creative animation and mapping that students and faculty are developing in the new NYU Media and Games Network.” Known as MAGNET, the new facility brings together the faculty, students and research of five NYU schools in 40,000 square feet of space in MetroTech.

NYU-Poly’s Integrated Digital Media Program comprises a third of that space for its undergraduate and graduate exploration of digital media: interaction design, performing arts research, photography, film, audio, 3-D graphics, games, app development, software design, computer programming, and human-computer interfaces.

Working in the Mobile Augmented Reality Lab, Xin, a senior from Manhattan who is studying in the Integrated Digital Media program, animated the CSAW spider, and Skwarek developed its shape and mapped its climb up Wunsch Hall, the historically preserved Bridge Street African Weslyan Methodist Church. They received technical support from Elton Kwok and students.

CSAW has grown from a series of simple competitions among NYU-Poly students at its founding to six contests, a conference, and career fair that draws students and mentors—top researchers and practitioners—from across the world. In addition to the CTF, contests include high school students solving a murder mystery through digital forensics; the nation’s top doctoral students presenting research papers; hacking and protection in the new field of hardware security; video and web presentations that foster security awareness; and the fast-paced game show that stumps even the best cyber-geek: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Quiz.

For more information about NYU-Poly’s CSAW or to register, visit

NYU-Poly was one of the first universities to introduce a cyber security program and is designated as both a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and a Center of Academic Excellence in Research by the National Security Agency. The Sloan Consortium, an affiliation of educators and institutions dedicated to quality online education, named NYU-Poly’s virtual graduate cyber security program the Outstanding Online Program of 2011. The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Security and Privacy (CRISSP), a cutting-edge research collaboration of NYU-Poly and other NYU schools, re-examines the entire cyber security paradigm to integrate technology with broader issues such as human psychology, business, public policies and law.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is a gold sponsor of CSAW; Facebook, Qualcomm, Raytheon, and RSA provide support at the bronze level. To date, 25 companies have provided generous funding for the educational goals of NYU-Poly’s CSAW.