FDU freshman places 15th in state cybersecurity contest

That's no hacker! It's FDU freshman Daniel Clarke conducting cybersecurity work.

By Kenna Caprio


Daniel Clarke’s cybersecurity hobby developed in middle and high school as he taught himself computer science.


More recently, his interest in cybersecurity took him from hobbyist to challenger: on Saturday, March 23, the 18-year-old Metropolitan Campus freshman and electrical engineering major from Teaneck, N.J. participated in The New Jersey Governor’s Cyber Challenge at Brookdale Community College in Lindcroft, N.J.


Clarke placed 15th out of 104 competitors.


“The whole thing about cybersecurity is that currently in our networks, we created them so that they can handle large amounts of computers and handle them efficiently,” he says. Those priorities don’t necessarily indicate security.


“You can have small amounts of programming knowledge and exploit vulnerabilities that are publicly accessible. That concerns me. Anyone can exploit the systems,” he says. Discovering those vulnerabilities however, requires extensive knowledge, according to Clarke.


He received an invitation to compete in the statewide challenge following a good showing at the CyberCenters competition in the winter, where he placed 10th. In that contest, participants received training in three modules: networking, operating systems and system administration and then were skill-tested.


“Most of what they taught, I was already familiar with,” explains Clarke. “I’ve used both Windows and Linux operating systems before.”


That familiarity might have benefited him at the Governor’s Cyber Challenge too.


The challenge, hosted on the NetWars training system, was divided up into layers. NetWars is a virtual environment that simulates operating systems with vulnerabilities. Contestants looked through files and answered basic security questions like, “Which account on this system is the least secure?” They also had to find flags hidden throughout the system by relying on different types of knowledge, files and tools. To move from Layer 1 to Layer 2, participants had to elevate user privileges and obtain the administrator’s password. Layer 3, which no one including the winner completed, focused on “remotely exploiting vulnerabilities.”


FDU graduate student Steven Tegethoff (BS ’12) also competed and placed 30th.


“We are very proud of Daniel Clarke’s outstanding accomplishment at the Governor’s Cyber Challenge competition. We are also equally proud of his fellow competitor, Steven Tegethoff, a computer science/information technology graduate student, who also did very well,” says Alfredo Tan, director of the Gildart Haase School of Computer Sciences and Engineering. “This type of activity supports the mission of FDU’s newly created Center for Cybersecurity and Information Assurance.”


According to Kalyan Mondal, director of the recently launched Center, the Center intends to honor Clarke and Tegethoff’s achievements during the upcoming Advances in Cybersecurity & Information Assurance symposium May 1.


“Cybersecurity is becoming a big issue. It used to be whoever had the most guns was the top dog, but now with a computer, you can take over the guns,” Clarke says.


Clarke plans to combine his cybersecurity knowledge with his electrical engineering studies and artificial intelligence interest post-graduation.

“Ultimately, I want to do research into artificial intelligence. That has its own applications in cybersecurity, with reacting to threats,” says Clarke.

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

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