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Niwot students compete in NYC cybersecurity event


December 4, 2019 | View PDF

Courtesy Photo

Caitlyn Fong, Davita Bird, and Julia Curd worked through a series of difficult cyber security challenges at the 16th annual Cyber Security Awareness Week competition, held Nov. 6-9 in New York City.

The honors just keep coming for Niwot students and budding infosec experts Davita Bird, Julia Curd, and Caitlyn Fong. Last month, the trio was one of two all-girls teams invited to compete in the 16th annual Cyber Security Awareness Week competition, the largest student-run contest of its kind.

"It was awesome to be one of the two girls teams," Curd said of the three-day event, which was held at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in Brooklyn, from Nov. 6-9. "We actually ended up making friends with the other team, and they were super awesome."

The competition featured 180 teams from around the world, competing for more than $1 million in scholarships. The all-girls teams were invited as part of CSAW's efforts "to employ the games as a gateway to a field in which women represent only 24 percent of the global workforce," according to the competition website. Earlier this year, Bird, Curd, and Fong competed Girls Go CyberStart security challenge, a similar venture sponsored by the SANS Institute in Bethesda, Md., and were the top finishers in Colorado. For Curd, these initiatives are sorely needed for girls considering their future careers.

Courtesy Photo

All-girls teams from Niwot (Caitlyn Fong, Davita Bird, and Julia Curd) and Poolesville, MD were invited to participate in the 16th annual Cyber Security Awareness Week competition, held Nov. 6-9 in New York City.

"I think it is so important that CSAW provided the opportunity for some all-girls teams to go because out of all the STEM fields cybersecurity is one of the least diverse," she said.

Unfortunately, the Niwot girls didn't finish among the top teams in Brooklyn, but Curd said the challenging puzzles made the event a valuable learning experience.

"Friday was the actual competition, and the premise was we were given a couple of websites and tasked with finding the vulnerabilities of them. We used lots of SQL injection, source code, directory traversal, and some cross site scripting in our investigation. It turns out the mayor was corrupt and using the town's traffic lights to mine bitcoin."

The team also made some valuable connections.

"We had the opportunity to meet lots of people in the industry and learn a lot about working in cybersecurity," she said. "We had tons of fun in New York and were so thrilled to be invited and experience this amazing opportunity."


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