Inside Engineering

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Northrop Grumman Sponsors NYIT’s First Cybersecurity Hackathon

May 12, 2017

On May 5, 2017, the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences hosted the first of seven challenges in the NYIT Cybersecurity Challenge Series introducing students to Cryptography through an exciting one-day event that requires students to work as a team to solve clues in a high-tech scavenger hunt. The goal of the challenges is to provide students with an effective, team based approach to solving cybersecurity issues and to expose them to real world security problems and varying technologies and provide them with high-impact, hand-on experience before they enter the workforce.

Although the focus of the first challenge was cryptography, the remaining six challenges will each have a unique topical focus. Cryptography is the use of codes and ciphers to protect information and has been used for thousands of years. Cybersecurity professionals now use it as the front line between top-secret information and those who seek to attain it. Student teams employed various cryptographic methods and techniques using Cesar Ciphers, Transposition Ciphers, Book Ciphers, and Steganography to locate the clues that will lead them to the next clue.

Nine teams competed to complete the challenges over an eight hour period as faculty members Paolo Gasti, Huanying Gu, Mike Nizich, and Kiran Balagani acted as judges. The team led by Timothy Moses won the first place prize of $500. Nicholas Cariello’s team won the $250 second place prize while Hiba Fatima’s team won the $250 third place prize.

Mr. Dana Shafie, Chief Cyber Architect in Cyber & Information Services at Northern Grumman and Ms. Cheryl Rice, District Director in the Office of Congresswoman Kathleen Rice were in attendance to congratulate the winners. The challenges are funded by the $100,000 Northrop Grumman cybersecurity grant that the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences received.

Mr. Shafie said, “Northrop Grumman believes deeply in developing the next generation of cyber talent, from Cyber Patriot™ for high schools to our University Cyber Research Consortium. When NYIT asked us to sponsor their Hackathon, we were really pleased to participate. As someone who has worked with many cyber analysts, engineers and leaders in our company, I look for determination, spark and ingenuity in my cyber team, which is exactly what I observed in the NYIT Hackathon teams. NYIT, through their Hackathon series is developing the teamwork, problem-solving and resourcefulness that is needed to counter real-life cyber threats. I was genuinely impressed as the teams had to solve progressively more challenging cryptologic puzzles to advance to the next round. The winning team, led by Timothy Moses, had to write scripting code on the fly to break a tough encrypted block, research obscure information, and develop a strategy to overcome the roadblocks all the while facing the pressure of their competition and the clock. This event is exactly the kind of training activity that is going to help prepare our future defenders to protect our critical systems from increasingly dangerous adversaries. From me, our leadership and over 2000 certified cyber security professionals at Northrop Grumman in twenty five countries worldwide, well done to NYIT, Timothy Moses, Nicholas Cariello, Hiba Fatima and all the participants of this Hackathon!”

The next ETIC cybersecurity challenges will be hosted in September and October, focusing on additional cybersecurity skillsets and providing students with a growing toolbox of cybersecurity skills and experience that will benefit industry. For more information, contact ETIC Director Dr. Michael Nizich at 516-686-1360 or

Special thanks to Northrop Grumman.