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.

John Madias: Interview with a New Seidenberg Graduate

When students graduate from Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, they may depart the proverbial nest but they certainly don’t leave our community. John Madias, who recently earned his Master’s in Computer Science, is one whose future we are particularly excited to follow. 

We asked John a few questions about his experience at Pace, his career so far, and what he plans for his future.


What program did you study at Pace and why did you pick that one?

The MS in Computer Science. I have been working at CM&F Group for the last four years, currently as the Director of Internal Systems/Development Specialist, and decided early on that I wanted to advance my skills and abilities in my current position. I currently work on the Operations Team for CM&F Group, an insurance company mainly offering malpractice insurance. Prior to these experiences, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and worked as the Director of Marketing at the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Through my professional and educational journey to expand my knowledge in the field of marketing, I discovered the importance of basic coding knowledge and began to code on my own. I quickly found myself enjoying that very much and the rest is history.

Did anything surprise you during your degree? 

I really enjoyed learning about mobile app development. I was a little hesitant at first, given the stresses and complexities that come with mobile development work, but learning the very basics to the more advanced concepts became a really enjoyable experience. It’s a very fulfilling feeling to develop a mobile app to fruition, from the beginning stages of a project – literally drawing a sketch of your app with a pen and paper – to running the final user-friendly product.

John Madias, MS in Computer Science ’20

What are you most proud of in all of the things you have done over the last few years?

In the last few years, I am most proud of being able to manage all of my responsibilities successfully. Since the Fall 2017 semester when I started my Master’s degree, I have worked a full-time job, kept a healthy, daily workout routine and even started as a student at Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu in early 2019. I knew being able to keep a healthy work-school-life balance would be a challenge, but I am proud to say I was able to achieve all of my goals whole-heartedly.

Balance is important. Kudos for achieving that. Any other standout moments? 

Algorithms and Computing Theory was not an easy class, but it sure was entertaining. Despite having to grasp the complex theories and essential algorithms, Professor Thomas M. Schmidt made this class fun and interesting with his unique style of teaching. He referred to the class as the “Kingdom of Algorithmia” and, from time to time, would come to class dressed as a King. Certainly something I will never forget.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to future students?

One piece of advice I would give to future students is that if you really want something, you will find the time to do the work and get it done. There is no room for excuses. Just put the work in.

Finally, and importantly, what’s next for John Madias?

Hmm, what’s next? CM&F Group has become more than a job and like an extended family to me. I will continue to work there applying my new skills and abilities to better the firm’s business and make the process of applying for insurance better for our clients. I also have a lovely girlfriend of four years and am excited to see what the future holds for us.


Through his dedication, motivation, and discipline, John has demonstrated traits that we like to refer to as “the quintessential Seidenberg student” – someone who puts in the work, faces challenges head on, is scrappy and always ready to take advantage of the next opportunity.

Congratulations on making it through your master’s program, John! It’s a significant achievement and we are excited to hear about where it takes you.

Three Seidenberg Students attended the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit as Scholars

When Forbes announced that the applications for scholars to attend the 2019 Forbes Under 30 Summit were open, three Seidenberg students jumped at the opportunity: Sammy Chen Li, Ezana Ćeman, and Debra Perlman. These three students were accepted to the summit and traveled to Detroit, Michigan in November to attend. We’re so proud of Sammy, Ezana, and Debra and we want to share their experiences with our community!

Both Sammy Chen Li and Ezana Ćeman are seniors who will graduate in May 2020. Sammy will graduate with a BS degree in Computer Science while Ezana will obtain one in Information Systems. Debra Perlman is a junior studying Information Systems who expects to graduate in May 2021. All three of these upperclassmen took the time to tell us about this prestigious conference.

 

Why did you apply for the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit and how did you feel when your acceptance came through?

Sammy: For the experience and exposure! I wanted to experience a conference/summit that covered many industries featuring leaders from those industries (and not simply technology). Being in a room with featured 30 under 30’s and having an opportunity to meet them was my main motivation to apply. When my acceptance came through, I was ecstatic and honored to be selected among the many students across the country/world to attend. I knew that this would be [a] once-in-a-lifetime experience as a student preparing to take on the real world. This conference, I knew, would make me meet people from a spectrum of backgrounds and that intrigued me even more.

Ezana: Last year, I was given the once in a lifetime opportunity to attend the 2018 Forbes Under 30 Summit which took place in Boston through the Under 30 Scholars Program. I applied last year [2018] right when the application came out and to date, this was the best summit/gathering of figures and role models in the world that I have ever been to. It was an amazing experience and I jumped to apply right away when I saw that the application for Forbes Under 30 Scholars for 2019 was live! I applied again due to the endless networking opportunities with both students and professionals within various industries. I was in love with this year’s selection of speakers and would truly be honored to be able to hear everybody speak about where they started out in life and how they got to where they are now. I was actually surprised when my acceptance came this year as I was unsure if Forbes would allow Scholars from last year to attend again this year. I was extremely excited and I was looking forward to meeting other people who shared the same passions as I did. 

Debra: I applied for the Forbes Under 30 Summit for a couple [of] reasons. I was looking to travel while at Pace without studying abroad, and to be honest, the conference just looked really interesting and like it would be a good time. When the Pforzheimer Honors College posted the application, I applied on a whim, not thinking I would actually get the scholarship for the Summit. When I got my acceptance, I was feeling so many emotions: shocked, thrilled, surprised, excited just to name a few. But, after the shock set in, I was determined to be in Detroit for the conference as I did not want to miss out on this amazing opportunity.

What was the summit like? Did it live up to your expectations, surpass them, or miss them entirely?

Sammy: The summit was initially overwhelming but fascinating and eye-opening. It was truly a memorable experience to have as it lived up to my expectations. I learned something new from every talk or experience, whether it was from the tech track, or from experiencing new technology, or from the world of entrepreneurship, fashion, art, or design. Hearing from accomplished entrepreneurs and celebrities and their impacts through their work were inspiring, inspiring me to realize my potential to make a difference in the world. When I experienced Cadillac’s self-driving car experience, I truly realized the calling for innovation for the future, and this conference represented that. This conference engaged its attendees by offering so much insight over the 4 days and even gave us a chance to give back to the city of Detroit, the rising hub of innovation and design.

Ezana: The 2019 Forbes Under 30 Summit took place this year in Detroit, Michigan which was quite the change from last year and overall, it was an amazing experience! There was a designated floor in the Masonic Temple just for Scholars which gave us a space for networking and Scholar-specific events such as resume workshops, interview tips and tricks, etc. The Summit lived up to my expectations as I was able to hear from a few of my actual role models which wouldn’t have happened elsewhere! Over the course of 4 days, I was able to connect with over a hundred students my age who study the same major as I do, and participate in once-in-a-lifetime experiences! 

Debra: The summit surpassed my expectations. The venue, the Masonic Temple was modern, but also felt like it had a historical significance in Detroit. The panels, sponsored events, music festival, food and other opportunities at the summit were amazing! I was given the chance to meet celebrities, successful individuals and some of my personal role models in various fields and industries. Not only did I get to network with like-minded individuals and professionals already far in their careers, but, I was able to see and meet many of those who I have aspired to for a long time.  

What was your favorite part of the summit? Can you explain what happened at this particular panel/event in detail?

Sammy: There were many amazing experiences throughout the summit, ranging from seeing Serena Williams to hearing insightful words from industry leaders to experiencing the future of self-driving cars from Cadillac to walking through the Startup Hub. My favorite part of the summit, however, was practicing yoga with Michelle Kwan, where I was able to recenter myself amongst the craziness of this summit. Having this session to practice self-care was important to me because it highlights how important it is to focus on mental and physical health while working towards future success. In addition to practicing yoga, I was able to meet Michelle Kwan, which was personally important to me as she represents success as an Asian American. Meeting her was truly inspiring and motivational to pursue my own success in my career. 

Ezana: My favorite part of the summit was being able to see and hear my lifelong role model Serena Williams talk about how she is breaking through barriers in the business world which was extremely inspirational! I played varsity tennis in high school and was and still am obsessed with her. It was extremely inspirational hearing how a woman of color who is primarily known as a championship athlete throughout the world is investing in all types of small and big businesses and creating her own fashion line. Other notable parts of the summit that I wanted to mention were: being able to drive a self-driving Cadillac on the highway, hearing Kevin Durante, Sophia Bush, and Offset speak, and try out all of the company-sponsored activities. 

Debra: I actually had two favorite parts of the event. The first one was being able to go to a panel session and do yoga with Michelle Kwan. This was a once in a lifetime experience where Michelle talked about her career as an Olympic athlete and her current political career with Joe Biden’s campaign, all while leading a group of us in a relaxing yoga session. She also after talked personally with many of the attendees, including me, and took pictures with all of us as a group and individually. The other event that was my favorite part of the summit was the panels with Sophia Bush and Nia Batts, the co-founders of Detroit Blows, a Detroit based non-toxic salon. Their company offers beauty services in the Detroit area and helps the redevelopment of the Detroit Area through their philanthropic section “Detroit Grows”. At their panels, they talked about their investment into the company, investment into Detroit Grows and about themselves in general, including their personal lives and careers which surround the business they own. This inspired me in a number of ways, making this an amazing, valuable, once in a lifetime experience!

Did you leave wanting to return to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in 2020?

Sammy: Absolutely! It also inspired me to one day be selected on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List. I think this experience is truly special to have as a student and I encourage everyone to attend at some point within their student career. 

Ezana: As I will be graduating this upcoming May, I won’t be eligible to apply again as a Scholar unless I go to graduate school, which is still something I am thinking about! I would love to go back to Detroit in 2020 but it comes down to funding at the end of the day! I highly recommend that all Pace students apply to next year’s Forbes Under 30 Summit as it is an amazing and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Speak to your professors, your advisors, etc. and learn how to receive Pace funding for these types of events!

Debra: I definitely left wanting to go back to the Forbes Under 30 Summit in 2020! It was an amazing experience and I would love to go again and experience not only the parts I missed the first time, but take full advantage of what the Summit has to offer all over again.

We’re so proud of these incredible student leaders and newly Forbes Under 30 scholars. Make sure to apply for the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit for an experience like this!

Building with Accessibility in Mind at Codeland 2019: a Seidenberg student’s story

Luisa Morales, a Computer Science graduate student, has a lengthy list of achievements from her academic career at the Seidenberg School of CSIS. The former Seidenberg student assistant, undergraduate economics student, and Engineering Fellow at the Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity curated a resume full of achievements that any student would be proud of.  This summer Luisa went above and beyond—she hosted a workshop at Codeland 2019 titled, Building with Accessibility in Mind.

Codeland, a conference created for new and growing developers, was held in New York City on July 22. Luisa joined a fantastic lineup of workshop mentors and speakers including Avi Flombaum, Co-founder and CIO of Flatiron School, and Jasmine Greenaway, Cloud Advocate at Microsoft. 

Luisa’s workshop called attendees to “come demystify web accessibility with me and get into the nitty-gritty of what it is, how you can test for accessibility on your own, and common best practices. We’ll build an accessible website in the process that you can boast about on GitHub. You’ll also gain practical experience you can utilize to make your current, and future, projects more accessible.”

She explains that her workshop took a very collaborative and hands-on approach with attendees working on demo sites. Everyone in attendance worked in pairs to learn a variety of skills: how to use a screen-reader and keyboard to test website accessibility as well as integrating common practices for improving the accessibility of their projects. 

Asked about specific techniques she teaches her students, Luisa says “this includes things like using semantic HTML, color contrast, font sizes, and ARIA, amongst other things.”

It’s a fair assessment to say that those who learned from Luisa’s workshop earned some crucial and exciting skills to utilize in the future. But where did the idea for the workshop come from?

“The inspiration behind the workshop is my belief in the importance of making the things we produce as developers accessible to as many people as possible and demystifying the idea that it’s too difficult to do or unnecessary,” she explains. “By making a website accessible, you make it better for everyone and increase your potential market share, so I’m not sure why some people think it’s not important. At the Mayor’s Office, it’s ingrained into the development process and a lot of what I’ve learned there is influencing this workshop. I hope that attendees [came] away feeling more comfortable building with accessibility in mind and that it informs their choices as developers, designers, [and] product managers going forward.”

Luisa would like to encourage students—whether they attended her workshop or not—to attend Codeland in the future. She explains that it’s a “very inclusive environment and it’s a great opportunity to meet other people on a similar career path and potentially even your future coworkers!”

Codeland offered an opportunity for Luisa to teach others what she’s passionate about. She had the chance to improve the skills of those in attendance and explains just what that felt like for her.

“I’m proud of how curious and empathetic the workshop attendees were. Building accessible experiences, and especially testing your work with a screen reader, can be overwhelming,” Luisa explained. “Everyone in the workshop was excited to learn how to improve the experiences they created for users online. They were also keen to experience the web as visually impaired users do” by using screen-readers or only keyboards.

While she is proud of her students, Luisa took the time to acknowledge the pride she takes in her own role at Codeland.

“I’m also really proud of myself for putting together the workshop and presenting it at the conference,” she states. “It was very scary to do, but definitely worth the effort and jitters. Would do it again!”

We’re very proud of Luisa here at Seidenberg as well. Students like her who go out of their way to assist other developers to improve their skills are fantastic examples of our community. 

To make things even better, Luisa made sure that her workshop is available online for free! Anyone can access the workshop on GitHub and go through it themselves. She also makes herself available on Twitter for anyone who has questions about her workshop or web accessibility.

Curious about web accessibility? Luisa included some helpful resources for students to check out to learn more. Take a look:

  1. “YES, your site can (and should) be accessible too. Lessons learned in building FT.com” – by Laura Carvajal (https://vimeo.com/215169705)
  2. Tech Done Right Podcast Ep: “Accessibility With Luisa Morales” (https://www.techdoneright.io/49)
  3. Web Fundamentals: Accessibility by Google (https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/accessibility)
  4. What & Why Of Usability by usability.gov (https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/index.html)

Follow us on social media for updates!

Seidenberg Student Receives an Award at Eastern Colleges Science Conference

Seventeen students from the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems traveled to the Eastern Colleges Science Conference on April 6th. It was a wonderful chance for students to experience from start to finish, the process of preparing for and presenting at an esteemed conference. The experience was made possible by the Kenan Student-Faculty Conference Grant.

Out of the 17 capstone students and graduating seniors whose research was accepted, 12 students presented posters and 5 gave platform presentations (15-minute oral presentations with a question and answer session afterward). While the presentations were the highlight of the conference, all the students were able to network and learn from students of surrounding institutions.

Seidenberg Computer Science Professor, Pauline Mosley, explained that this experience was intended to prepare students for future conferences. The students who attended learned “how to interact, network, and make collaborations.”

Pauline also mentioned the importance of conference participation: “the art of presenting one’s research provides student[s] with another dimension of learning that [can] only be achieved by conference participation.”

While all the students gained exposure that will benefit their careers and education, Pauline wanted to note one presenter who stood out from the rest: Quincy Doccy.

 Quincy, a graduate who received his BS in Computer Science this past May, presented his platform presentation “See Through Your Meal” at the conference. He competed against Ithaca College students and won in the category of Psychology and Health. Quincy received the Award for Best Platform Presentation.

Pauline explained just why Quincy’s presentation was award-worthy: “Some students read off the PowerPoint slides, but Quincy – walked around the room, told jokes, gave history, and discussed his project calmly and it was great!  His project entailed analyzing the data for restaurant reviews and his reason for doing this project was that he got food poison[ing] after eating at one of the restaurants.”

“My presentation, ‘See Through Your Meal’ was on the NYC restaurants letter grade system,” he explained. “The objective of the project was to analyze the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) health inspections results datasets to identify the deficiencies and limitations of the current restaurant letter grading system and determine its effectiveness. I also implemented an application prototype that’d help restaurant goers to make informed decisions when choosing to dine at their next restaurant.”

Quincy noted that this presentation was the final step in completing his capstone course. He believes this step in his education was crucial, and he enjoyed the conference.

“It was an awesome experience to listen to other college students present their research from diverse fields and receive positive feedback on my presentation,” Quincy explained. “I also enjoyed networking with faculty members and other students.”

When asked how it felt to win an award for something he worked so hard on, Quincy explained that “it was great to know that all the hard work and effort I put into my research was acknowledged and recognized by the judges.”

Quincy did an excellent job of representing Seidenberg and the Pace University community. We’re proud of all that he and the other students accomplished at this conference.

Follow us on social media for updates!

Seidenberg student attends CHASE2018 Conference

A student from Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems had the opportunity of a lifetime when they were chosen to attend a conference in Washington D.C. last fall in September.

Yaodong Du, a  Ph.D. candidate, was chosen by Juan Shan, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science, to attend the CHASE2018 Conference from Sept. 26 to 28.

The conference, titled, The Third IEEE/ACM Conference on Connected Health: Applications, Systems and Engineering Technologies, gave Du the chance to present his and Shan’s work on an advanced research project in the field of medicine. Du explained that the conference is a “leading international conference in the field of connected health, which is related to our research area.”

“[At] the conference, we [presented] our recent work on using [a] machine learning method to analyze 3D MRI images for knee osteoarthritis prediction,” explained Du.

Osteoarthritis, described by the Arthritis Foundation as “the most common chronic condition of the joints,” is currently affecting close to 27 million Americans

The work presented at the conference by Du and Shan is dedicated to diagnosing this degenerative joint disease. Their machine learning method specializes in analyzing 3-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images to detect osteoarthritis of the knee. This means that their research can help doctors detect the disease before patients experience permanent joint damage.

Along with presenting their own work, Du and Shan had the opportunity to network and listen to other top industry professionals speak about their areas of expertise.

Du says that one of the best parts of the conference was when “many researchers from different institutions stopped by, [asked] questions and discussed.”

“[CHASE2018] widened my sight, and deepened my cognition on the research and my knowledge,” Du explained, highlighting the impact the conference had on him.

Our Seidenberg students are accessing and working with technology that has the ability to innovate and to heal. With brilliant minds and abundant opportunities, Seidenberg students make worthwhile change.

As for the future of their work, Du said, “we will continue our work on exploring useful information to help [in the field of] predicting diseases.”

Du and Shan’s work will continue to carve out a path in the Pace community for other Seidenberg students to follow.

Follow us on social media for updates!