Florida Polytechnic University students cracking the code to improve cybersecurity

Oct 17, 2018
Florida Polytechnic University students cracking the code to improve cybersecurity
Seniors Eliezer Pla (left) and Lina Brihoum work together on a cybersecurity project for a Digital Forensics class at Florida Polytechnic University.

Florida Polytechnic University students are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to cybersecurity. Almost 20 of them sit between dozens of computers in the university’s Cybersecurity Innovation Lab, listening to an important lesson about how to crack a password.

“We’re doing something scary in class today,” said Dr. Kanwalinderjit Gagneja, who teaches the Digital Forensics course at Florida Poly. “It’s an essential lesson.”

Cyberattacks increase every year. According to the latest McAfee report, the damages caused by cybercrime cost the global economy as much as $600 billion in 2017. That’s up from $445 billion in 2014.

Cybercrime doesn’t just focus on stealing data, but could cause entire businesses to shut down, as well as city services and government systems. In order to fight it adequately, it’s crucial to understand the ever-changing techniques hackers use.

“Cyberattacks happen daily and their nature is constantly evolving. That’s why we update up to 30 percent of the content in our cybersecurity classes every semester,” said Gagneja.

Students in Gagneja’s class are developing 10 different cybersecurity projects that range from hacking into a user’s device to show its vulnerability, to taking an Android app and altering its code for malicious purposes.

Seniors Benjamin Harvey and Jorge Nuñez are working on designing a powerful virus that would fully crash a system within a few minutes after an infection or cyberattack is detected.

“One of the most basic strategies on pretty much anything is to know your enemy,” said Harvey, a computer science major from Tallahassee, Florida. “What better way to defend yourself against a virus than trying to build a highly potent, even more powerful virus to defeat it?”

Harvey and most of the students on this Digital Forensics class would like to enter the workforce as cybersecurity professionals; a job market that Gagneja says “is very hot.”

CyberSeek states that there are more than 300,000 cybersecurity job openings in the U.S. this year. Globally, there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021, according to a report from Cybersecurity Ventures. It’s a market need Florida Poly students take full advantage of.

“The cybersecurity program here at Florida Poly is very strong,” said Gagneja. “Our students with a cybersecurity degree get hired immediately after graduation.”

Lina Brihoum, a senior majoring in computer science, hopes to be one of those students.

“It happens so often now, that people get cyberattacked and find themselves dealing with the consequences,” said Brihoum, from Orlando, Florida. “I would like to be part of a solution.”

Lydia Guzman
Assistant Director of Communications