Pace University Students Qualify for the 2021 Northeast Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition

by Andreea Cotoranu
Clinical Professor, Information Technology

A team of eight Seidenberg students with a passion for cybersecurity, participated in the highly coveted Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, Northeast (NECCDC) qualifier, on January 23, 2021. The ‘core eight’ team included: Logan Cusano (BS in Information Technology ’22 – captain/student coach), Alexander Zimmer (MS in Cybersecurity ’22), Alexs Wijoyo (BS in Computer Science ’22), Kyle Hanson (BS in Information Systems’21), Brendan Scollan (BS in Information Technology ’24), Zachary Goldberg (BS in Information Technology ’22), Andrew Iadevaia (BS in Computer Science ’23), and Aleks Ceremisinovs (BA in Computer Science ’21).

One of the competition goals is to “develop competitor skills to respond to modern cybersecurity threats.” The competition provides a controlled environment for students and challenges them to protect an enterprise network infrastructure and business information system against inherent challenges. The competition environment, called ‘cyber range,’ was virtual, and the communication and collaboration were supported over Discord. Industry professionals moderated the teams; the ‘core eight’ were moderated by Seidenberg alums, and former NECCDC competitors, Andrew Ku (NYC Cyber Command) and John Guckian (IBM).

The theme of this year’s competition was ‘mobility.’ In the qualifier scenario, the ‘core eight’ were part of a news organizations’ internal security team working to administer and secure both data and systems of a regional office in the face of challenges posed by COVID-19. Competing teams were expected to manage the network, keep it operational, prevent unauthorized access, maintain and provide public and internal services.

As part of the competition, a ‘red team’ played the attacker role aiming to compromise the team’s systems. The ‘red team’ launched attacks by making extensive use of bots. Memes and a curated playlist contributed to creating a suspenseful competition atmosphere, which accurately reflected the realities of the battle between the ‘red team’ and the competing teams.

NECCDC Team Discord Groupchat
NECCDC Team Discord Groupchat

As the team captain for the event, Logan Cusano ’22 explained that his role was to assign tasks and secure servers. He noted that his favorite part of his role was seeing new team members “learn an immense amount of information and real-world skills on their assigned operating systems.”

Another team member, Alex Zimmer ’22, explained that he “assisted in our team’s logistical planning as well the preparation of script and reference materials. I also played an active role with our log management on the day of the competition. I found it particularly satisfying when either my materials or advice allowed another team member to overcome an obstacle or properly counter red team actions.”

Alexs Wijoyo ’22, who specialized in Linux operating systems on the team, explained that “the best part of my task was that I was able to get my hand dirty with the tools and operation of the competition. I love these types of things.”

To start, the team had to tame bots with correct command lines to obtain clues and access resources. After that, it was up to keeping systems secure and services up against several rounds of attacks, over five hours.  By round 7, the team had 26/28 services up and running, by round 20 it was down to 11/28, and by round 27, the team rebounded to 17/28. However, by round 41, it was down to 9/28, then up to 15/28 by round 52 –  they were never gonna give those services up! Business tasks, called injects, were as important as keeping services up, especially when competing against great teams. Ultimately, the performance on both technical and business tasks contributed to the team’s qualification to the NECCDC regionals.

NECCDC Team Discord Groupchat
NECCDC Team Discord Groupchat

Alex, who recalled the experience of “the continuous monitoring of the possible attack angles” as a combination of exhilarating and strenuous, explained that the team was ecstatic when they learned of their qualification.

“When I read the news that we had made it to the next round I was elated. I knew the team was capable but this just proved me right,” Logan said of the team’s excitement.

“We love working together and we sure do get a thrill from it,” Alexs chimed in.

Overall, the competition was challenging; however, ‘the core eight’ succeeded to communicate and collaborate, in a virtual environment, under pressure – any IT team would be lucky to have them on board. (Note: for a red team review of last year’s competition and advice for competitors, check Tom Kopchak’s (Hurricane Labs) post.

Seventeen teams from the Northeast region participated in this competition.  Ten qualifying teams, including Pace, will now have the opportunity to participate in the 2021 Northeast Regional CCDC, taking place virtually, March 19-21, through the Cyber Range and Training Center, part of the Global Cybersecurity Institute (GCI) within Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) – the host organization for 2021.

As reported by current and former participants, competitions like NECCDC are some of the most impactful learning experiences. Pace students interested in participating in cybersecurity competitions are encouraged to connect with BergCyberSec, the Pace Cybersecurity Club (Discord: BergCyberSec) to learn of opportunities for training and collaboration.

Are you interested in pursuing a course, a degree, or a career in the exciting domain of cybersecurity? Check the Seidenberg School at Pace University’s cybersecurity course and program offerings here.

Pace University recently launched a Master of Science in Cybersecurity that aims to train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to join an ever-growing workforce.

Pace University Students Win IBM 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge

It’s our honor to congratulate four Pace University students on winning IBM’s 2020 Call for Code Global Challenge. Three Pace alumni, Ajinkya Datalkar ‘20 (MS in Computer Science), Manoela Morais ‘20 (MS in Financial Risk management), and Chimka Munkhbayar ‘20 (MS in Entrepreneurial Studies), worked in collaboration with one of our current students, Helen Tsai ‘21 (MS in Computer Science), to develop their game-changing project.

The team worked together to develop their app, Agrolly, with the intention of helping farmers with little resources combat issues caused by climate change. Unlike larger farming industries, small farming businesses have limited access to information that can increase their chances of making smarter business decisions. That’s where Agrolly comes into play.

The team’s app provides a low-cost solution to providing farmers with long-term weather forecasts that can be used to make better judgments about the crops they should grow and when they should grow them. Other features of the app include information about crop water requirements, which is dependent on factors such as location, the type of crop, and the stage of the farm. Additionally, farmers can use Agrolly to keep in contact with other farmers and share solutions using a text and image-based forum. Agrolly also has an algorithm in place to calculate most of the risk assessments for farmers using the app.

In response to the team’s major achievement, Seidenberg Dean Dr. Jonathan Hill says, “One of the really exciting things about our team’s win is that it was a combined team of Seidenberg students and Lubin students. One of the great values of a Pace education is that it can be so interdisciplinary. Our technology students benefit from working with students who are being educated in business, the arts, healthcare and the other disciplines at Pace. It makes for a real world experience and it makes for strong, winning teams.” IBM’s Call for Code Challenge offered Pace students of varying disciplines the opportunity to collaborate and make use of their unique skills and assets.

With the development of their app Agrolly, these students have made an impactful step towards addressing climate change, which is becoming more and more of a concerning issue. Our only hope is that their accomplishment inspires more students to make a positive change by finding solutions to real-world problems. Once again, congratulations to Team Agrolly and we hope to see this amazing app grow in both use and development.

Surviving Online Learning for the Fall Semester

A majority of Pace University students are now taking some, if not all, of their classes online. The switch earlier this year in March has made many of our matriculating students more than familiar with the concept of remote learning. However, the transition for our first-year students may not exactly be the same. Fortunately enough, our new students have done an amazing job adjusting to this new learning environment. During those few months of online learning throughout the previous semester, in addition to my learning experience over the summer, I’ve accumulated a handful of tips that can be beneficial to my peers here at Pace. Whether you’re a first-year student or not, these tips have the potential to improve the online learning experience of any student for the fall semester.

Tip Number One: Make a Schedule 

A calendar on a desk.

Building on the advice of one of our earlier articles, having a schedule is essential to keeping track of your work for the following months. In addition to that, using a planner can also make a world of a difference when organizing your tasks for each day. I’ve found that having a calendar makes it easier for me to know when I’m free to catch up on homework, and having a planner allows me to make a list of assignments that need to be tackled each day.

Tip Number Two: Try to Wake Up At a Reasonable Time

A woman waking up in bed.

Waking up at a reasonable time should not be out of the question, even for online learning. Resist the urge to stay in bed and try waking up early enough to do somewhat of a morning routine. Whether that includes grabbing coffee or doing yoga, having a morning routine should give you enough time to become fully alert for class.

Tip Number Three: Dress Up for Class

A woman standing at the entrance of her closet.

Even though classes are online, dressing the part can put you in a more productive mindset for learning. When getting ready, try wearing a piece or two that signifies that it’s time to work. This should be something comfortable, but not too comfortable, that way you don’t feel inclined to crawl back into bed afterwards.

Tip Number Four: Find Proper Lighting

A desk with a laptop on top of it and a large window in the background.

This one is not just for the sake of looking decent during a Zoom call. Lighting has a significant impact on our productivity. If you’re getting ready for class, try to stay in a well-lit area so that you are alert and focused. Dimly lit areas can make you feel sleepy and unmotivated to do work so try your best to avoid them if you can.

Tip Number Five: Use Headphones

A student wearing headphones and doing work.

If you own a set of headphones, try using them, especially when you’re in a noisy environment. Noise-canceling headphones are especially helpful with blocking out sound so that you can stay focused during lectures.

Tip Number Six: Let Others Know When You’re Busy

A sign that says "Do Not Disturb."

If you live with other people, let them know when you’re busy so that they don’t interrupt you while you’re working. One way you can do this is by sharing your schedule with them so that they know in advance when not to disturb you. Or, if you have a room to yourself you can try putting a note on your door to let others know that you’re preoccupied. 

Tip Number Seven: Make Time for Yourself

A man relaxing in the outdoors.

Setting aside time for yourself is one of the biggest keys to being productive. Little things like designating times for work and self-care can help you feel more focused when you’re working and more relaxed when you’re not. Figure out ways to destress and try implementing a few of them into your daily routine.

Tip Number Eight: Unplug When You Can

A woman reading in a hammock.

One of the biggest issues I faced when transitioning to online classes was the burnout from using technology way too much. I was on my laptop for school and work, plus a majority of the ways I de-stressed included the use of my laptop, TV, or Switch. When you can, please try to take a few moments out of your day to do an activity that doesn’t require a screen—like reading a book (paperback or hardcover), going for a walk, playing a board game, etc.

Tip Number Nine: Set Timers When Working

An orange clock.

This trick has worked wonders for me during my time in high school up until now. The method I’ll be sharing is heavily inspired by the Pomodoro Technique. When I have an assignment to do, I usually set a timer for about an hour and commit myself to working with no breaks during that time frame. After an hour is up, I take a fifteen to twenty-minute break and then repeat. I find that doing this makes me way more productive than doing work for hours on end.

Tip Number Ten: Boost Your Productivity

A woman sitting on her bed with her laptop and a cup of coffee.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, but still want to get some work done, try doing other tasks that are not as difficult to complete. This should be something easy for you to do both physically and mentally, that way you can still get things done without overworking yourself. If at any point you’re feeling too overwhelmed to do anything at all, then taking a break is certainly the most productive thing you can do.

Online learning has definitely been a learning curve for everyone, however, these tips can help make the adjustment into this new learning environment a lot easier. With so much uncertainty surrounding the continued practice of learning online, growing accustomed to it from now can help normalize its use until it is safe to return to regular in-person classes.

 

How to Stay Productive During Quarantine

From the title of this article, you might be wondering: why would I want to be productive during a time like this? Although it feels like what’s going on will never end, that couldn’t be further from the truth. At some point, things will return back to normal–classes will resume, friends will reunite, and some of us will even return back to find exciting internships and jobs. It may feel like that’s ages from now, but it will happen, and when it does you might want to be prepared. Being productive is hard, however, when you find ways to be productive that are also fun, it becomes a tad bit easier. So, to spare you the trouble of figuring out what those ways might be, here is a list of some fun (yet beneficial) ways to stay productive during quarantine.

1. Virtual Hackathons

Robot Typing

 

 

One way to stay productive is to attend a virtual hackathon. Although many of us may be more familiar with attending in-person hackathons, it doesn’t hurt to attend a virtual one. Plus with everything going on, a virtual hackathon is definitely much safer to attend. Not only are you doing your part by social distancing, but you’re also doing yourself a favor by putting in valuable coding time. Don’t let your skills get rusty. Take part in something that will build the skills you already have. There are plenty of virtual hackathons to attend, so look into one that might fit you!

2. Coding Activities

Girl Pretending To Type

 

This next idea is more of a group effort. If you’re stuck at home with any younger, female-identifying family members who also have an interest in technology, you should try introducing them to Girls Who Code, which is a program that encourages young girls to pursue any potential interest they may have in technology. With the gender gap in this field gradually increasing, it is not only important for us to provide girls with the resources they need, but it is also important that we make them feel welcomed. If you have any time to spare, you can also sit down with your sister, cousin, etc., and walk them through some weekly Girls Who Code At Home Activities. That way you get to help them expand their knowledge while also spending time with them and learning a little bit more yourself.

3. Revamp Your Resume

Girl At Job Interview

Despite everything that’s going on, once life returns back to some level of normalcy, we all have internships and jobs to look forward to. That’s why one of the best uses of any free time you have now could be used towards tweaking your resume. Thankfully, there are ways to make that process easier. One of the first steps is to book an appointment for a resume workshop on Handshake. All you need to do is log in with your Pace credentials, click the Career Center tab, and go into Appointments. Another thing you can also do is work on your resume using the Resume and Cover Letter Guidebook before your appointment. Doing so will save you a lot of time and help you complete your resume much faster. Also, please note that in order to apply for internships or jobs through Handshake with Pace, your resume has to be completed and approved by Career Services.

4. Look Into Potential Internships

Character Saying I Got The Job

After your resume is completed and approved, you can start looking into internships on Handshake. Using the website or the app, you can search for internships based on your major and internships based on location. Also, Handshake will show you the employer’s hiring preferences and whether or not your major, year level, or experience matches what they’re looking for.

5. Work On A Project That Interests You

Woman Lowering Her Glasses

Whether it be an app, a website, or a computer, work on a project that interests you. It can be something that you’re excited to do but also sharpens your technical skills. Being productive and staying motivated are less strenuous when you’re doing something you absolutely enjoy. With all this free time available, you can finally get started on that project you’ve been thinking about. If you don’t have a project idea, think of something you’re passionate about. For instance, if you’re unhappy about something that’s currently going on, maybe you could think of an idea that has the potential to help others. It could be a big and elaborate idea, or it can be small, simple, and to the point. Whatever your idea may be, go for it!

6. Attend A Club Meeting (via Zoom)

Fictional Business Meeting

If you’re a member of any Seidenberg clubs or genuinely interested in becoming a member, you can officially attend a club meeting using Zoom. Also, Pace Women In Tech, PCS, Seidenberg Tech Collective, and the Pace Cybersecurity Club are all really active – they are sharing events on social media, Discord, and email!

7. Relax

Woman At A Spa

Yes, being productive is important, however, productivity is nothing without peace of mind. If you’re too tired or stressed to be productive, then chances are your work will reflect that. Have a spa day, do some face masks, watch a movie, FaceTime friends, etc. Do what you have to do in order to recenter your mind, body, and soul.

During this unprecedented time, the Seidenberg School of CSIS would like to thank those working on the frontlines to protect the wellbeing of others and we’d also like to send our condolences to families who have lost any loved ones to this outbreak. It is important that during this time we look out and care for one another. For any students struggling to cope with what’s currently going on, here is a link to some tips and resources that you may find helpful.

 

 

Pace University professor Richard Kline 3D prints face shield frames for New York medical workers to protect against COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis has brought with it numerous challenges, but there have also been many moments in which the human drive to help others during times of hardship has blossomed.

One such instance was the work of Richard Kline, a professor of computer science at Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems. As a techie, Dr. Kline wanted to see whether he could contribute to the crisis response in any way. After reading an article about makers – people who design, prototype, and build objects, often in makerspaces – banding together to create much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers, Dr. Kline saw an opportunity to help.

“I contacted the volunteer group at NYCMakesPPE.com and got into their Discord chat group,” explained Dr. Kline. “I was asked right away to print a prototype for a new face shield frame design they are working on.”

Dr. Kline demoing the 3d printed frame, wearing it on his head.
Dr. Kline demoing the 3d printed frame.

A small team of volunteers were already working to improve upon a public-domain face shield design from Swedish company 3DVerkstan to increase the amount of space in front of the wearer’s head and to allow the clear plastic shields to be attached more easily.

After sharing photos of the prototype and offering feedback, Dr. Kline continued to work with fellow volunteers.

Dr. Kline demoing the 3d printed frame with shield, wearing it on his head with the shield covering his face.
Dr. Kline demoing the full face shield.

“Since that first print, I’ve helped with several further iterations among discussions with half a dozen other people, many with expertise in design and manufacturing. I’ve also printed 60 copies of their ‘production’ frame design to contribute to the group’s supply.”

With the 60 frames packed up, Dr. Kline mailed them to the NYCMakesPPE  organizers. Once they arrive, other volunteers will attach clear plastic shields (which they are also making), sanitize them, and prepare them for distribution within NYC.

A picture of a 3d printer and printing materials.
The 3d printer and materials for printing frames.

“It’s gratifying to have found something concrete I can do to help out in a small way during these troubling times,” said Dr. Kline.

We are filled with #SeidenbergPride at Dr. Kline’s contributions of much-needed equipment for New York medical workers. As Pace University has campuses in both New York City and Westchester, New York is our home – so we are always looking for an opportunity where the Pace and Seidenberg community can make an impact.

A Survival Guide to Learning Remotely

If you’re a student struggling through this shift from going to class or work each day to learning remotely from home, you’re not alone. We’re all going through this together as a community, so this guide is for all of us. Whether you need help making a schedule, navigating Blackboard, or keeping in touch with your professors, this guide has helpful information for all of the facets of remote learning. Read through our seven tips from Leanne Keeley, Web Developer for Pace University and Seidenberg Community Member, for an easier and more organized virtual semester!

1. Focus on communication…

Check Blackboard and your student email every day for announcements from your professors. Email or call your professor for any reason—whether you have questions about the course overall, about an assignment, and if you’re struggling with anything. Make sure you know when your professor’s office hours are so you can contact them when needed.

2. Make a schedule…

Use an online or paper calendar to keep track of class time, assignments, and due dates. It can be hard to stay on top of classes when moving to a new environment, so making an organizational system for yourself can be key.

3. Create an organized space for yourself…

Set aside a space for doing classwork (besides your bed, of course). Use a desk or table and create a space for yourself. Let your family and anyone else in your space know that you are in class or working so they do not disturb you.

4. Utilize your computer…

Set up a folder for each class on your desktop so you can organize class lectures, assignments, and other varied course work. Make sure all of your folders and documents have good file names so you can easily find them. Ensuring that your computer is backed up in case of an emergency is also good practice!

5. Check-in with yourself…

Take care of yourself. Use Pace and Seidenberg resources if you need help. Check-in with faculty or staff if you are worried about your classes or confused about how to be a remote student. You do your best work when you are happy and healthy.

6. Know your academic resources…

There are many academic resources for students working remotely. You can get an appointment with a tutor for most general classes, get a specific tutor for your Seidenberg classes, and even check out Pace OneDrive. You have access to so many resources that you can find on the Pace University or Seidenberg websites.

7. Utilize your health care resources…

Even when learning remotely, your health care resources are available. If you are worried about your health, university Health Care is just a click away. If you feel anxious or need someone to talk to the Counseling Center is always available to help.