Jack H., Wendy N., Brandon T., Brittany R., Dayna E., & Mark M.

 

PORTRAITS BY CHUN-LI 'KEN' HUANG

 
 
 
IBM at Marist by Chun Li Ken Huang.jpg
 

BY HANNAH KIRK

Jack Heiden, Wendy Ni, Brandon Traditi, Brittany Ross, Dayna Eidle, and Mark Miller have been working alongside start-up company, BlackRidge Technology International Inc., since the summer of 2017. Their goal was to advance the technology used to protect against cyber attacks and secure gateways for the network. Their automated attacks signature detection, classification, and response system was able to cut cyber attack detection time from 90 seconds to 30 seconds.

Traditi explained, “If someone is trying to get into the gateway, their IP address runs through a python script and from there we see if there is suspicious activity.” Their work with BlackRidge Technology International, Inc., has set them on the world stage, attending international conferences overseas to present their work to elite companies such as Google and Verizon.

 

‘LEARNING AS MILLENNIALS’—Each member of the team is knowledgeable in their field, but give much of their credit for success to the passion of learning as much as possible about the field they are in. Brittany said, “Growing up with computers made it a lot easier for all of us to learn as millennials, compared to someone who did not grow up with computers.”

The team composed of  Dayna, a sophomore computer science major from Middleton, Mass, Jack, a senior computer science major from Stratford, Conn., Mark, a junior, Wendy a junior, a computer science major from New York City, Brittany, a senior information technology major from Wappingers Falls, NY  and Brandon, a junior computer science major from Poughkeepsie, NY, work with the IBM Joint Study program, as an academic program designed to advance their experiences and work with outside companies.

Despite their success as undergraduate students, many of them did not have a start to computers until later in their teenage years. Dayna and Wendy did not become involved with computer science until taking elective classes in high school; Brandon and Brittany fell in love with technology while attending Marist, both interested in other careers up until attending the college. “I was always interested in computers,” Brittany said. “My dad built computers but I never thought about pursuing it until Marist.” Jack saw himself working with computers since age 12 when he saw his friend’s dad working with cybersecurity. Jack said, “I always liked computers and saw myself working with them one day. I started off like many people do, playing video games and realized a job could come from that.”

 

‘JOB THAT COULD TAKE HOURS, IF NOT DAYS’—According to the Marist/IBM Joint Study Information page, “The College's participation in the Joint Study provides the unique opportunity for Marist students, faculty, and IT staff to work collaboratively with IBM research and development staff on various emerging technology initiatives.”

If an IP address tries to go through a gateway and seems suspicious, it would be the job of one or more persons to read through each threat; a job that could take hours if not days depending on the number of cyber threats. However, if the automated script, the job can be done in less than a minute. “The program can reject connections to it based on IP address. Messages travel through IP packets and on the packet is what you call an IP address, similar to caller ID. This packet is sent from one gateway to another. the receiving end can see if the IP address is trustworthy and if not it is dropped and acts as if it never went through” Wendy explained.

Dayna added, “We used a python script to take in IP addresses that we see does suspicious activity on the network, then it checks a blacklist to see if the IP address is on it and if it is not, we can add it and kick it out.” Dayna, Wendy, and Brandon were able to attend the SDN NFV World Congress 2017 Conference in the Netherlands because of this project. Robert Cannistra, a lecturer of computer science, information technology and systems at Marist College, is a regular attendee of the conference each year and chooses a group of students from the IBM Joint Studies each year to attend with him. Each member of the project thanks him for the opportunities and resources he has helped present to them for them to advance in the computer science field.

Each student expresses their love for the atmosphere provided by Black Ridge and Marist throughout this process. “Working with a startup and seeing how the company is growing and going about the business was my favorite part.” Traditi said, “It was an atmosphere where nothing was hidden at all if you had any questions you can ask anyone and they will be more than happy to help you, even if their project has nothing to do with yours; there was a family aspect to joint study.”

Dayna Eidle, Jack Heiden,Mark Miller, Wendy Ni, Brittany Ross, and Brandon Traditi, work with the IBM Joint Study program, as an academic program designed to advance their experiences and work with outside companies. Their goal was to advance the technology used to protect against cyber attacks and secure gateways for the network. Their automated attacks signature detection, classification, and response system was able to cut cyber attack detection time from 90 seconds to 30 seconds. 
 

THE CYBERSECURITY EXPERIENCE—Heiden and Ross emphasize the importance of this cybersecurity experience. Brittany said, “Working with new technology that is still developing is an opportunity not many undergrads have. Cybersecurity is such a huge thing and is relevant to the real world.” Jack added, “There are a lot of limitations that are put on jobs because what company would hire someone fresh out of college if they don't know if they can trust them or if they have to experience. The experience gained from this project with cybersecurity is really invaluable.”

They all agreed the most difficult aspect of the project was decreasing reaction time from 90 seconds to 30, however it was the most rewarding. Looking back at their work together over the summer there was nothing they would do differently in their process. “A big part of computer science is trial and error, you can think ‘oh I should’ve known that from the beginning’ but that would have never happened, so the fact that we had to go through a lot of testing and thinking ‘what can I fix’ is just apart of the processes that is never going to change” Dayna said.

The majority of the group did not come from technology orientated families. However, when explaining the success and progress that has come from the program, each family is excited and proud the work they have done. “I still get calls on how to set up the printer,” Jack said. Although many of the parents do not fully understand the computer science aspect of it, they do understand the importance of protection from cyber attacks.

Wendy will continue working on this project with BlackRidge to further test the program in different case tests. The others hope to continue furthering their education or working in their respective field of study. While for the majority of them their time with BlackRidge is over, they still can look forward to many calls from their parents on how to fix a printer or log into a computer.

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