Leaders of the 'Hack'

Leaders of the 'Hack'

Real-world experience, networking opportunities at CNY Hackathon

According to founder and organizer Ronny Bull, this semester’s CNY Hackathon was different from past events in two important ways: 

“More realistic and more difficult,” says Bull, who’s also an assistant professor of computer science at Utica College.

The event, which began in 2013, brings computer science and cybersecurity students from local schools together to compete in hacking challenges. Students form teams to tackle real-world challenges, where their offensive (hacking into secure networks) and defensive (protecting information) skills are put to the test. From April 22-23, more than 100 college and high-school students gathered in the Frank E. Gannett Memorial Library at Utica College, a first-time host for the event. 

This semester, says Bull, the team challenges were created to replicate detailed scenarios cybersecurity experts might face on the job. And for good reason: Local professionals who work in the field helped design them, using their own experiences as inspiration. The pros then teamed up to test students’ work by attempting to hack their networks. “We wanted to give students a realistic idea of what it’s like to work in this industry by putting them up against professionals,” says Bull.

For the first time, the event’s agenda included a job fair, where representatives from local companies (including Assured Information Security, Harris Critical Networks, and GrayCastle Security) talked with students about job and internship opportunities. The company representatives also had the chance to watch Hackathon participants in action during team competitions.

With positive feedback from both employers and students, Bull expects the Hackathon job fair to expand in the future. “The demand for cybersecurity and computer science experts is growing,” he says. “Employers want to go beyond the resume and see these students work, and the Hackathon allows them to do that.”

For more information about the CNY Hackathon, visit cnyhackathon.org 

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