Students learning about cybersecurity at High Point University

Buckley Report
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HIGH POINT, N.C. — As the world gets more sophisticated, so do our games. And our war games.

On any given day, the monitor in one of the computer science labs at High Point University shows the tens of millions of cyber attacks that are being detected by those trying to prevent them. It’s daunting to watch the number climb. High Point computer science student Nathan Markle calls it “an arms race.”

“The attackers get smarter and you have to get better and there are always going to be more holes and you always have to be, from a defensive perspective, trying to plug those holes,” Markle said. “And it’s hard because, currently, we are a reactive society. If your company gets hacked, you know what you need to do, patch the hack but that’s not enough anymore. There are a lot of attacks on the rise so you need to be a lot more proactive.”

Several of his HPU computer science classmates hope to be doing just that for a career soon.

Sophomores Ty Carlson and Ethan Shealey entered a competition online called Cyber FastTrack. It provides a series of computer science forensics, detection and security challenges.

“There were about 280 challenges and I did all of them,” said Shealey, about the time he spent on the project over about six weeks and then adds, with a laugh, “I just had a lot of free time. And a passion for it, I guess. I want to learn this stuff and be good at it so I kept on going.”

“It seems like a fantastic way to apply some of the stuff I had learned in some of my classes and so I figured, why not?” said Carlson, who is from West Palm Beach, Florida. “A lot of it was just learning how to apply ways to break down problems into smaller pieces with different ways to narrow down which attacks are going to work, which routes are available, which are a waste of time. A lot of times what the program likes to do is they would suggest to use this way when in reality there was a quicker, more efficient way to take but you had to learn to not take their hints at face value but to go and do something on your own so that was fun.”

Not only did they do well – Shealey got a small scholarship for his efforts – both Shealey and Carlson got perfect scores on a section of the challenge.

“That’s absolutely fantastic,” Markle said. “If I were an employer looking for people to bring into the company, the fact that they were able to get perfect scores at any level is huge.”

But there is a lot of growth for both of the younger computer scientists.

“I didn’t start with anything CS until my freshman year in college, so this is all pretty new to me,” Shealey said.

See more – including the map showing live web attacks – in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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