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NDSU students attend DefCon cybersecurity conference

For the second year in a row, a group of NDSU students attended the DefCon cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas. The experience provides an opportunity for students to learn about all types of cybersecurity from world leaders.

The students who attended will bring will back information and share it with other NDSU students through activities of the Cybersecurity Student Organization. Some DefCon activities may be included in next summer’s GenCyber camp for high school students or, perhaps, undergraduate courses at NDSU.

The DefCon conference brings together leaders in cybersecurity for four days of learning and sharing. In its 27th year, the conference features five tracks of speakers as well as “villages” where attendees participate in hands-on activities. Topics range from artificial intelligence to securing aircraft and vehicles to wireless security.

“DefCon provides an opportunity for students to learn about a wide range of cybersecurity topics and work with lots of specialized hardware,” said Jeremy Straub, assistant professor of computer science. “Students meet with industry professionals and come back more excited than ever – drawing from the excitement of others at the event.”

The Department of Computer Science pays for transportation, registration and lodging. Students are offered the opportunity to attend based on their involvement in extracurricular cybersecurity activities during the school year and the summer.

“I liked meeting different people with similar interests,” said graduate student Pann Ajjimaporn, who attended the conference. “I got to see what modern, very up-to-date exploits and tools are like and see them in action.”

One area of particular interest to several of the students was the voting village. Attendees worked with voting machines to learn about their inherent security vulnerabilities and how issues can be solved. NDSU students also can study voting security on campus, and the participants brought back new information that may aid this ongoing effort.

The DefCon experience is one of many benefits of studying cybersecurity at NDSU.  The university partners with industry leaders such as Cisco Systems, CompTIA, the EC Council and PaloAlto Networks to offer workforce relevant education that combines learning subject theory with practical hands-on experience that can be directly applied in students’ first job and throughout their career. Students also regularly participate in national and international cybersecurity competitions. NDSU offers cybersecurity programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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