Security basics

GenCyber campers focus on new field

Cameron Henry, who is entering 11th grade this fall at Petoskey High School, is shown with equipment used during the GenCyber Summer Camp at Northern Michigan University to educate campers on how automotive hacking works. Campers attended the July 10-21 session in Marquette courtesy of a National Security Council grant. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — In the ever-evolving world of cybersecurity, young adults are learning the basics to help them navigate this relatively new field.

Students in middle and high schools, through a grant from the National Security Council, attended the GenCyber Summer Camp, which started on July 10 at Northern Michigan University in Marquette and was to conclude on Friday.

Students explored cybersecurity topics in a virtual setting to learn the fundamentals from CompTIA Security and Cyber.org while living on the campus of NMU, home of the Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute.

Jim Marquardson, associate professor of information assurance and cyber defense at NMU, was the camp’s lead instructor.

“The purpose is to get students excited about cybersecurity, give them experience,” Marquardson said. “One unique thing about camp is that part of our instruction focuses on automotive cybersecurity — car hacking, basically. We give students some hands-on experience evaluating the security of cars, seeing what they can find.”

With vehicles becoming more electronic, those complexities, even though they can make them more efficient, leave them vulnerable, and that’s what the youngsters addressed at the camp.

“There can be hundreds of sensors in cars, just detecting everything,” Marquardson said. “For example, when you connect your phone via Bluetooth to the car, the car stores a copy of that information. We’ve had students this week hacking into those dashboards of used cars, and they’ve found cell phone records. They’ve found photos that people took. They’ve found lots of private information.”

How does a consumer stop this from happening?

“That’s tricky, because once a car company sells the car, they stop making money, “ Marquardson said.

Their priority, he noted, is to make sure the car works initially.

“As a consumer, you can ask questions to your dealer,” he said. “It’s hard to know. If you think about the worst-case scenario, maybe somebody can see who your contacts were. Maybe that’s not a big deal.

“If you’re a high-value target (and) a hacker got access to that data, maybe they could pretend to be one of your contacts and send you a text message or something.”

Cybersecurity has a lot of facets.

“Sometimes the professionals have to sign nondisclosure agreements because the hacker — the ethical hackers who are trying to find the bugs before the hackers do — they can find very sensitive information,” Marquardson said.

He pointed out that the National Security Council made it possible for the campers to live in the dorms at NMU and eat their meals at no charge.

“They got to experience this without adding a financial burden,” he said.

Cameron Henry, who will be a junior this fall at Petoskey High School, said he learned about the automotive system as well as Linux, an operating system.

Henry acknowledged having an interest in cybersecurity, with the camp adding to his knowledge.

“This is helping me learn about how I can protect myself with securities and how to defend against other hackers,” he said.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 550. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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