Students Share Cybersecurity Conference Experiences

Jared Schaefer and Miriam Cox

Students Share Cybersecurity Conference Experiences

Attending DEFCON this summer — one of the largest hacker conferences in the world — allowed me to see the other side of the cybersecurity spectrum that is often lacking in academia. The conference informed attendees about vulnerabilities and clever hacks that allow people to get conversations rolling on offensive techniques.

DEFCON offered me a place to have conversations with people who were passionate about cybersecurity- related projects. It helped me branch out and discuss ideas that I often can't discuss with my peers. The conference really showed me a culture I am not always exposed to in academia. This conference aimed at offensive techniques, but by seeing these techniques, I was also inspired to create new defensive solutions. Overall, I met many new friends that I plan on having long relationships with, and I hope to attend more DEFCON conferences in the future.

I am currently working at a national laboratory, and my only regret is not attending the conferences sooner. I feel like they would be very informative for undergraduates looking to get their foot in the door with cybersecurity and begin being immersed in the culture. The Scholarship for Service program has allowed me the opportunity to attend this conference that has inspired several projects outside of school and work. Every undergraduate interested in security should take the time to understand the Scholarship for Service opportunity. — Jared Schaefer, senior in CS

As a student participant in Scholarships for Service, or SFS, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend several cybersecurity conferences this past summer, including BSidesLV, Black Hat and DEFCON. While there, I met a variety of cybersecurity professionals and made several contacts including a security research group from China, a professor from the University of Arizona and a representative from LinkedIn corporate. I had the opportunity to discover and learn about cutting-edge defense, analysis and pen-testing software, including products from Malware Bytes, Splunk, Rapid7 and more.

I had the awesome opportunity to attend several presentations on critical issues in my career field. One notable talk included a study of HPKP suicide as a tool that can be abused to commit PKP ransom. Another talk covered a variety of weaknesses found in smart city implementations of bike shares, fare cards and parking meters. My favorite, however, was a talk covering common errors and omissions in the training materials distributed to and among pen-testing professionals; the lecture revealed a culture of bad practices, misinformation and a tendency to forget about the importance of proper "clean up" and use of secure communications in test scenarios.

Beyond this trip, SFS itself has also provided a way for me to focus on building academic excellence and deeper knowledge of my field by connecting me with professionals, opening up great internship and career paths at respected government institutions, and removing many of the financial and time barriers that college students face. I am grateful for the freedom and support that this scholarship has provided me and know that because of it, I will be a better trained and well informed cybersecurity and information assurance professional going forward. — Miriam Cox, senior in CS

Interested in cybersecurity or information assurance? Looking for a great scholarship? The CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service (SFS) program might be for you.

The CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service (SFS) program is currently accepting applications for students who would like to receive the scholarship starting in spring 2017. The program is designed for persons interested in studying cybersecurity or information assurance at Kansas State University.
The scholarships fully fund typical costs that students pay for books, tuition and fees while attending K-State. Additionally, participants receive stipends of $22,500 per year for undergraduates, and $34,000 for graduate students. The scholarships are funded through a grant awarded by the National Science Foundation to Kansas State University.

Please visit for more information about the scholarship, including application instructions, benefits and eligibility requirements.