10 years down the line I envision myself teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts!
I hail from India and finished my Bachelor’s degree in Information and Communication Technology in 2017. I’m an avid reader, a history buff, and like cooking! My fascination with Cryptography started after reading Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress and I’ve relentlessly pursued advancements in computer security ever since. I worked for 2 years to get a taste of the tech industry and the need to cultivate a security mindset strengthened my resolve to pursue a Master’s degree. Getting into Georgia Tech was a dream come true and everything since then has been one adventurous ride! I owe everything to my parents for their unflinching support; this degree is as much theirs as it is mine.
Program Highlights: I remember being excited about the curriculum knowing it had courses from three different schools. Cybersecurity is not only about the technology, it is also about the people impacted by it. The classes I took from the Policy track really helped me understand why we do what we do. I also had the chance to work with Dr. Mustaque Ahamad. His guidance helped me develop a whole new perspective of looking at challenges. The courses, in general, were very well planned and I gained a lot of technical know-how especially from the Info Sec Lab. I’m glad I got such a holistic sense of security!
Parting Advice: It’s one of the best schools! Everyone here is going to be smart and it’s easy to get intimidated. Don’t let that deter you from reaching out for help. You can make a complete fool of yourself and it’ll be okay; you’re here to learn!
What’s Next: 10 years down the line I envision myself teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts! For now, I’m thrilled to step out in the real world and apply my skills. My time at Georgia Tech has taught me that we will always have new things to learn!
Georgia is a leader in the cybersecurity field, home to flourishing industries in multiple regions and a headquarters for companies in priority sectors such as healthcare, fintech, agriculture, the U.S. Department of Defense, and others.
Nationally recognized cybersecurity and privacy firms call metro Atlanta home, including OneTrust and Pindrop, both cofounded and led by Georgia Tech alumni. Each recently hit significant milestones – OneTrust, which is focused on privacy compliance, saw a jaw-dropping 48,000% three-year growth rate in 2020 and Pindrop celebrated 10 years this year with a major acquisition that enhanced it as a leader in voice security. Codoxo, using AI forensics to mitigate healthcare fraud and waste, has joined its elder brethren as an alumni-led startup on the Atlanta scene and was recognized by the Technology Association of Georgia as a top 10 innovative tech company in 2021.
Georgia Tech’s newest investment in the fields materialized in the form of the first academic school at the institute in a decade. The School of Cybersecurity and Privacy officially launched in September 2020.
“Georgia Tech has earned a reputation for cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in service to society. Georgia Tech’s new School of Cybersecurity and Privacy will focus on applied research collaborations as well as translational research with the fast-growing cybersecurity industry in Georgia, meeting a critical workforce need,” said Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera.
Georgia’s current cybersecurity workforce includes more than 32,000 professionals, but there are 17,000 jobs, or a full one-third, of the total available in the state that are unfilled, according to Cyberseek, a tool for job market analysis supported by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE).
The Georgia Cybersecurity and Privacy Roadmap Taskforce, a newly formed group of education experts and chaired by Georgia Tech’s Richard DeMillo, is working with industry and government officials to address this challenge. They are currently working to understand the needs of Georgia’s education system and provide a guide to fill the workforce gap by recommending a strategy for cyber education programs and training for students and working professionals.
Georgia Tech’s own OMS Cyber program has already provided a model that could potentially be a template for working professionals looking to switch careers to cybersecurity or digital privacy. More than 80% of the students enrolled, or about 800, are employed already.
“Georgia Tech’s approach to online education combines affordable, flexible access with modern pedagogy and world-class instruction,” said DeMillo, who also chairs the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy at Georgia Tech. “As we have learned from the thousands of students enrolled in our online degrees, this opens new doors to learners around the world, whether they are re-skilling mid-career or jump-starting new careers with one of the most respected graduate degrees in the world.”
To equip the workforce of the future in both cybersecurity and privacy, Georgia Tech is taking a holistic approach to teaching students about the technology, business, policy, and practice of these fields.
Technical skills in specialties such as cloud security, cryptography, cyber-physical systems, forensics, and malware are paired with learning about regulatory requirements, including those in public policy and law.
Students are able to choose from some of the most pressing applications of cybersecurity and privacy in society; election systems, social media, internet infrastructure and web security, cyber warfare, hardware security, network and communications system security, and machine-to-machine trust.
The state taskforce addressing workforce development in cybersecurity and digital privacy is holding a series of public workshops spring and summer 2021. To learn more visit https://gacybereducation.org/.
Media Contact: Joshua Preston, Research Communications Manager, College of Computing
Georgia Tech placed second in the 2020 National Security Agency’s Codebreaker Challenge and added to Georgia’s number of ranked teams, eight of which placed in the top 100 for the competition this last year.
Georgia Tech was among 452 qualifying institutions and has been in the top three ever since the competition started in 2015. The nationwide challenge provides students with a hands-on opportunity to develop skills in reverse-engineering and low-level code analysis through realistic problem-solving.
“The NSA Codebreaker Challenge is a competitive venue to assure that what we are offering at Georgia Tech is practical, influential, and builds the right skills in our students,” said Taesoo Kim, associate professor in the School of Computer Science.
“All participating students learn what NSA considers important in terms of cybersecurity skill sets and how to apply the practical knowledge that they learn in the classroom,” said Kim, whose Information Security Lab includes the challenge as part of the course.
The competition, often likened to a game of capture the flag, engages students in complex cyber challenges based on real-world scenarios.
A sampling from recent years:
Disassemble ransomware and break into a cryptocurrency ransom payment implementation to get victims’ money back (2018)
Access a secure mobile communications app being used by terrorists to plot an attack (2019)
Hack a FitBit-like fitness tracker’s data to locate a kidnapped journalist (2020). This latest challenge also required students to hack into video signals and take down a network of surveillance drones to enable a rescue mission.
The challenge this year was divided into nine tasks over a 16-week period, each task increasing in difficulty. More than 100 GT students successfully competed in the challenge.
Xuefeng “William” Wang, a full-time software engineer in Boston and student in the Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program, solved all but one of the tasks, the last few of which were released in early 2021 while he was starting a new course in his graduate program.
“The NSA challenge covered so many things – encryption, signal processing, working with ARM-based technology, assembly languages, and more,” said Wang. “I easily spent more than 20 hours a week on the tasks.
“The experience in the course and the competition was very rewarding and after I was done, reverse engineering was not a mystery anymore.”
Haoran Wang, who started as a MS in cybersecurity student and recently switched to the Ph.D. in Computer Science program, said the codebreaker challenge did a really good job of putting students in a cybersecurity role where the stakes were high.
“The last task I solved had me tracking a victim with turn-by-turn directions in a city, trying to figure out where the journalist was being taken,” said Wang. “It was fun, but not very easy – I got to do a little bit of forensics and get information on the victim; then when I tracked him, there was a good bit of physics and math, like figuring out acceleration, speed of travel, direction changes and so on,” she said.
“What we learn in courses is sometimes small and basic problems. This really helped me connect my cybersecurity learning to the real world.”
Georgia Tech’s new School of Cybersecurity and Privacy (SCP) developed a visual analysis of top-performing teams based on the leader scoreboard provided by the NSA. University of North Georgia and Georgia Tech took first and second place, respectively, with Mercer University (#14) and Augusta University (#15) rounding out Georgia schools in the top 25.
Georgia Tech’s neighbor to the north, University of North Georgia, has also been consistent in the cybersecurity challenge and is looking to continue raising the field’s profile in the state.
“As National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, both UNG and Georgia Tech benefit from collaboration with other institutions in Georgia and across the country,” said Bryson Payne, director of the Center for Cyber Operations Education at the University of North Georgia.
“Part of being a CAE is sharing research and training opportunities with peer institutions, and the NSA Codebreaker Challenge is an excellent opportunity to get all 10 CAEs in the University System of Georgia engaged and active in one of the most prestigious competitions in cyber operations.”
SCP Chair Richard DeMillo is currently leading a statewide taskforce to advance a strategy for Georgia’s entire pipeline for cybersecurity and privacy education, including the CAE network.
The NSA’s Academic Engagement office will recognize students from the top three schools in the codebreaker challenge in a virtual celebration March 31.
Contact:Joshua Preston, Research Communications Manager, College of Computing